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EC Tells 21 Countries to Move Faster on Implementing “New” EU Directives

Last week, the European Commission (EC) issued a formal “notice to comply” letter to no less than 21 countries, requesting them to transpose the new (well, not very new really ) EU directives on public procurement and concessions into national legislation. As the press release said:

The Commission regularly sends letters of formal notice to those Member States that have failed to comply with their obligation to transpose EU directives into their national legal order in a timely manner. The European Commission has today requested 21 Member States to transpose in full one or more of the three directives on public procurement and concessions (Directives 2014/23/EC, 2014/24/EC, 2014/25/EC) into national law. All Member States were obliged to notify the transposition of the new public procurement rules by 18 April 2016”.

A letter has been sent to the governments of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Finland, Spain and Sweden.

The Commission also explain why the countries should get on with this, highlighting the move to introduce more eProcurement into public procurement processes as a major potential benefit.

“Authorities that have already made the transition to eProcurement report savings between 5 and 20%. With EU Member States spending yearly more than EUR 1,9 trillion for procurement each 5% saved could return almost EUR 100 billion to the public purse.  The new rules make it easier and cheaper for small and medium enterprises to bid for public contracts and respect the EU’s principles of transparency and competition”.

Does eProcurement really generate savings of between 5 and 20%? In itself, we feel that is unlikely but if it is accompanied with some process re-engineering, more pre-tender market engagement and so on, then perhaps that is the case. But it is a bit shocking that two years after the launch of the new Directives in April 2014, exactly three-quarters of EU countries have failed to implement legislation – including Luxembourg and Belgium, two of the three “homes” for the EU Parliament itself.  And many of the EC officials sit in Brussels – perhaps they can pop over the road and help their Belgium counterparts draft the legislation!

Indeed, that number of failures means it would have been much easier actually to have written to the States that have implemented. So take a bow and a pat on the back to the magnificent seven – the UK (the first to implement), Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia who are the star pupils!

Now there is an argument that the UK in particular might have rushed their implementation, moving too quickly for political reasons to get it done before the 2015 general election.  Perhaps the UK did not consider certain points as thoroughly as they might have. But it would seem to be better to do that than to be on the list now, failing to implement after two years.

In terms of excuses, for some countries, this is all quite new and you might expect some issues with implementing what will be a very different way of conducting public procurement. Some have struggled with this, but are now obviously getting close – as reported recently, “Romania’s Parliament finally approved the new laws on public acquisitions, on May 10, after many delays”.

In other cases, it may be a more general political malaise that has contributed to delays. Belgium has had well-publicised problems in forming stable and well-functioning governments for some years, so perhaps that leads to these delays or a lack of prioritisation for public procurement matters generally. But it is hard to understand how countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland or Finland have needed quite so long to fulfil this task.