Final procedural approval given to new EU public procurement rules

Out-Law News | 13 Feb 2014 | 3:31 pm | 1 min. read

Changes to EU public procurement rules have been rubberstamped by EU Ministers.

The General Affairs Council within the Council of Ministers voted to approve three new EU Directives, on public sector procurement, utilities sector procurement and the procurement of works and services concessions by contracting bodies in the public and utilities sectors.

The package of reforms was approved by the European Parliament last month after MEPs had informally agreed on the wording of the new laws with EU Ministers. Now the EU Ministers have given their formal backing to the reforms.

The Directives have to be implemented into national law within two years following the expiry of the first 20 days following their publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

"The package provides for a simplification and flexibilisation of the procedural regime set by the current rules, which date back to 2004," a statement issued by the Council of Ministers said. "To this end, it contains measures to make procurement easier and administratively less burdensome and to create flexibility for public authorities enabling better procurement outcomes. Promotion of electronic procurement as a more user-friendly feature is a cornerstone of the simplification process."

The Cabinet Office has already undertaken work in a bid to introduce some of the reforms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, possibly as early as autumn this year.

One aspect of the changes contained in the new Public Procurement Directive allows contracting authorities to be able to consider social aspects amongst other criteria for determining which bid for a contract they put out to tender is the most economically advantageous to accept. Price is no longer allowed to be the central determining factor.

In addition, public bodies will be able to limit competition for specific health, social and cultural contracts to mutuals and social enterprises where those organisations satisfy certain conditions. The reforms also set new mandatory grounds for excluding suppliers from competitions for contracts, and this includes where a bidder falls foul of social and labour laws.

"The incorporation of social clauses into publicly procured contracts and the maximisation of social benefit and value through the procurement process, particularly at a time when public money is tight, is a key aspiration of many public sector bodies," said Kathrine Eddon, an expert in procurement law at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, at the time of the European Parliament's vote. "The new Public Procurement Directive facilitates this type of progress."

Procurement and competition law expert at Pinsent Masons Jennifer Robinson previously outlined the 10 most important features of the EU's overhaul of public procurement law.