MEPs vote to make procurement rules more socially responsible

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20 December 2012 | Anna Reynolds

Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of new EU rules to award public procurement contracts to the most “advantageous” bidder assessed on environmental or social criteria, and not just the lowest price.

Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella, a member of the European Parliament's internal market committee, issued a draft report on the new public procurement directive on Tuesday, which was then approved by MEPs on the committee 23 votes in favour, eight against and seven abstentions.

Tarabella said: “We want a public procurement market in Europe that serves European citizens. We also want to make sure that public money is spent in a more socially responsible way.”

The MEPs argued public procurement should be more socially responsible and said public authorities should accept bids from firms with a particular social profile or which consider sustainability and life-cycle costs. It should also be ensured tenders abide by environmental and labour laws

The committee’s approval of the reformed procurement directive is the first stage of the legislation’s passage through the European Parliament. The other directives that make up the EU’s purchasing reforms – on utilities and concession contracts – will be put to a vote in the internal market committee in January. A fourth directive, on third country access to public procurement, is being handled by the parliament's International Trade Committee.

The public procurement directive also encourages “innovation partnerships” where the authority sets the minimum requirements a service must fulfill but leaves it to the bidder as to how best to achieve them. There is also a proposal to set up a ‘procurement passport' which will cut the red tape for SMEs by showing a firm meets certain criteria without having to send in documentation every time they bid for a contract.

Rules enabling public authorities to subdivide contracts into lots to enable small firms to bid for them have also been simplified. To clarify the subcontracting chain, countries can make each subcontractor responsible for the next link in the chain and ensure any subcontractor taken on meets the provisions of the directive.

The internal market committee’s coordinators will later decide whether to open negotiations with the European Council, which is also currently scrutinising the legislation, to reach agreement on the directive before it becomes legislation.

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