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Progress made, but opportunities missed in procurement reform

26 February 2014

The reform of the EU procurement directives offers a number of opportunities to further sustainable and innovative public procurement. However there is a large amount of work still to be done at the national and local levels, and some opportunities have been missed during the reform process.

Many parts of Europe have faced flooding in recent weeks, prompting governments to intervene with rescue services, evacuation and containment measures. If severe weather continues, further intervention will be needed to assist farmers and those whose homes and businesses are damaged. In the longer term, governments may seek to develop better warning and defence mechanisms, and to adapt planning systems to take account of the effects of climate change. The risks and challenges posed by floods are not new, but their pattern and impact mean public authorities need to invest in innovative and sustainable products, services and works projects.

Will the new rules on procurement assist public authorities in making these and other important investments while still achieving value for money? One of the stated objectives of the reform was to facilitate strategic procurement taking account of environmental, social and innovation factors. Another was to provide more flexibility in procedures and timelines, complemented by greater use of e-procurement. Given the first two goals, the idea that the reform could also result in a 'simplification' was perhaps unrealistic. The reform process itself, which involved a series of compromises between the European Commission, Parliament and Council (representing the Member States) highlighted the tension between these various ambitions.

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