Basque Government’s eProcurement System (Spain, 2005-09) (BGEPS)

In 2005, the Basque Government was the first administration to introduce eProcurement in Spain, having developed a comprehensive eProcurement system for the entire procurement process, offering levels of security that were probably the only ones of their kind in Europe.

Indeed, all the interventions are guaranteed by recognised electronic signature certificates, highlighting the fact that the telematic bids are broken up and encrypted against the recognised electronic signature certificates of all the members of each procurement board. 

All the processes are carried out on the tendering company’s PC.     Not a single bit is transferred to our servers until the offer is firm and electronically protected by three different consecutive methods.

In accordance with the strategic framework laid down by the European Commission in the "i2010 - The European information society for growth and employment" initiative, which focuses on the development of the digital economy in Europe, over the last two years new functionalities have been developed to obtain a greater opening-up of the markets, interoperability and accessibility that make our procurement system highly innovative in comparison with the current state-of-the-art. 

Our contracting activity is mainly devoted to contracting mastermind services. Therefore, the offers we receive are complex and heavy. As may be understood, the eProcurement system developed by the Basque Government is also highly innovative in comparison with the eProcurement of services traditionally developed by other levels of government.  

During the period 2005-08, in keeping with the indications provided by the i2010 initiative, which foster access for everyone, digital inclusion and training in a unique way in Spain, the Basque Government has made great efforts in the area of diffusion and training to an unheard-of extent. 

The Basque Government has sought to obtain a high level of structuring and organisation of the eProcurement system and, accordingly, it has created an implementation scheme directed by a technical secretary who is responsible for the following areas:  

•         Training.

•         Marketing.

•         Daily operation of the platform.

•         User support.

This has made it possible to obtain very important operative achievements, including the fact that the Basque Government has been the first Spanish public administration to launch procurement projects on an exclusively electronic scale. 

All applications, information and educational materials are considered “open source” and available to all interested European administrations.

(For more information, see Additional Documents N1, N2 and N3).

Policy Context

The Basque Country has a population of 2 million people and it is one of the seventeen (17) regions of Spain.   The Basque Country has its own institutions, such as the Government and the Parliament. Similarly, each of its three provinces has its own public administration. 

Since 2005, the Basque Government has provided the companies taking part in its tenders with an eProcurement channel.  Accordingly, it is based on a law that was the first reference law for regulating public eProcurement in Spain. 

The action carried out by the Basque Government in the area of eProcurement focuses on external clients (companies taking part in the tenders), internal clients (government departments, autonomous bodies and public institutions) and the rest of the Spanish public administration that is interested. 

The vast majority of the companies that take part in the tenders amount to 3800 businesses, one third of which come from regions in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, etc.), which represents a huge obstacle for the corresponding diffusion and training processes, since, at the present time, the Basque Government is the only public administration to offer eProcurement in Spain. 

Most of the eProcurement focuses on the provision of intellectual services (consultancy services, computer developments, advertising, etc.), an area that is not very common in eProcurement. This means that our initiatives are highly innovative in comparison with the eProcurement carried out in the rest of Europe.  

Currently, our general operational framework is defined by: 

·          European Parliament and Council Directive 2004/18/CE. 

·          The Spanish Law for Public Sector Contracts. 

·          Spanish Law 11/2007 on electronic access by citizens to public services, which offers complete freedom for the presentation of digitalised documents. 

·          The legislation on eProcurement of the Basque Government, created in 2004. 

From the point of view of the policies and objectives laid down by the European Union, the Basque Government has given the following elements particular consideration: 

·          The strategic framework "i2010 - A European information society for growth and employment". 

·          The Commission's communiqué on the "Action plan on Electronic Government i2010: to accelerate the electronic administration in Europe for the benefit of all". 

·          The European Parliament legislative resolution on the proposal. Council on interoperability solutions for European public administrations (ISA). 

·          The recommendations of the IDAbc Programme. 

·          The commission's communiqué on the "Application of the action framework for financial services".

Description of target users and groups

The BGEPS operates in the Basque Government.  The Basque Country (population: 2,133,000 inhabitants) is one of the 17 regions of Spain (population: 44,708,000 inhabitants). 

The BGEPS target group comprises the following: 

·     Supplier companies.

·     Public administrations that use the system for procurement.

·     Dossier types handled by the BGEPS.

·      Officers using the system.

 

Supplier companies: The user target group includes 3,800 Basque Government supplier companies. The main introduction difficulties relate to the following: 

·     A large percentage of the 3,200 supplier companies are SMBs. 

·      The Basque Government procures all manner of products and services and therefore its suppliers come from a broad range of sectors. 

·     1/3 of the 3,200 supplier companies are from other Spanish regions (Madrid, Barcelona, etc.).    

Public administrations use the system for procurement: BGEPS system services are available to the Basque Government’s Central Procurement Committee, the various Departments, its Autonomous Bodies and Private Law Public Entities. 

 

The types of dossier handled by the BGEPS: The BGEPS introductory methodology distinguishes between the following:  

·     Dossiers for which electronic tendering is possible. This relates to all dossiers that, within reason, are not affected by potential digitalisation issues:

-  Open by competition.

-  Negotiated with advertising.

-  Negotiated without advertising. 

·      The range of goods and services procured by eProcurement is growing and diverse: Consultancy services, auditing, insurance, office furniture, security systems, advertising, cleaning services, travel organisation services, pharmaceutical and IT services. As shown, our procurement activity is mainly devoted to mastermind services.    

All officers using the system: At the present time, 220 technicians are involved in implementing the eProcurement system, in accordance with the following professional profiles:

·     Secretaries, chairpersons of the various boards and procurement technicians.

·     Procurement unit administrators.

·     IT technicians.  

The Basque Government has drawn up a specific training offer for these technicians, representing an accumulated total of 33 courses and 5500 hours of training given.  

 

Other public administrations: the Basque Government fosters collaboration within the framework of public eProcurement and, accordingly, has provided the following collaboration instruments:

·     Knowledge exchange. 

·     Transfer of technology through the following means:

          -  Use of the electronic tender system of the Basque Government.

                  -   Provision of the source codes. 

·     An offer of collaboration to the Federation of Municipalities and the three provincial governments of the Basque Country.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

eProcurement is not mandatory in Spain. Therefore, the Basque Government has made great efforts to foster its adoption by the procurement technicians and the 3800 companies that take part in its tenders.    

The organisational preparation and the promotion of a culture of change through the following have been fundamental: 

-          The legal framework.

-          A Master Implementation Plan.

-          Organisational preparation and the promotion of a culture of change and training for the procurement technicians.

-          Information and training initiatives for businesses.

Since the beginning of our action, We realised that eProcurement was more than computers and software applications.  Thus, in order to promote eProcurement, the Basque Government created a Secretariat, comprising six individuals with very different profiles (lawyers, computer experts, support technicians, advertising experts) who work in the following areas: 

-          Training.

-          Marketing.

-          Daily operation of the platform.

-          User support.

The daily operative work is carried out through a "Pilot Tender Protocol" for occasional support and for extensive collaboration on solving incidents.  This Protocol covers all the actions to be carried out, for the launch of electronic tenders, without previous experience. 

In keeping with the indications laid down in the i2010 initiative and as an exclusive in Spain, the Basque Government has made great efforts in the area of diffusion and training during the period 2005-08.  Accordingly, during the last 3 years, there have been 27 information days, which have been attended by 1324 individuals representing 1100 enterprises. 

Training in eProcurement has been very well received by Companies, serving as a good vehicle for its extension.  At the present time, our offer is as follows: 

·          In-class training: With an average frequency of five courses/month and a duration of 3 hours.

·          On-line training.

·          Videos on YouTube.

·          Free tenders.

At the same time, there is a user service centre, which provides "remote collaboration" services for the companies taking part in the tenders. 

As far as the training of the technicians is concerned, we have trained 220 individuals, with an accumulated total of 5500 hours of training given. 

Spanish Law 11/2007 on electronic access by citizens to public services provides the right of citizens and enterprises to select any channel for their relations with the administration. Accordingly, our initiative is multi-channel: 

·          Multi-channel offer of information.

·          Multi-channel training.

·          Multi-channel user support. 

The continuous management of knowledge on an internal scale at the Basque Government has been developed through the following: 

·          A control panel for progress.

·          The creation of a vade mecum.

·          An offer of training for the procurement technicians.

·          Annual reports.

·          21 catalogues on different aspects of eProcurement.

·          At the support centre, all the incidents are processed by an application called MantisBT, a free popular web-based bugtracking system.

Finally, in view of the delay in the adoption of eProcurement by the other Spanish public administrations, the Basque Government fosters collaboration through the following: 

·          Knowledge exchange.

·          Training.

·         The transfer of technology and the offer of the use of the system by other administrations.

·          Participation in national and international conferences.

·          The organisation of 3 seminars on public eProcurement during the period 2004-2008.

Technology solution

The Basque Government develops comprehensive eProcurement since the entire procedure of all the projects is carried out telematically. The system has been developed in three phases (2004, 2007, 2009) and is a modular project comprising the following specialised applications: 

·          Project manager: workflow that enables the processing of more than 300 phases of the procurement project. 

·          Automatic remission of announcements to the Official Journal of the European Union. 

·          Website on the Internet and contractor's profile: in order to guarantee transparency, detailed information is provided on the life cycle of the document project, supported in advanced time-seal and content certification functions. 

·          Official Contractors Register: this makes it possible to certify the attitude of the company taking part in the tender with regard to its personality and capacity for work and representation. 

·          Electronic Tender Application: this enables the telematic processing of the following:

-          Activation of a project.

-          Authentication of those taking part in the tender.

-          Presentation of bids.

-          Opening of the documentation.

-          Correction of documentation.

-          Signing of the contract. 

·          Temporary activation module: this makes it possible to hold tenders electronically for joint ventures, companies that wish to take part in tenders jointly with an electronic bid and companies not registered with the Official Contractors Register. 

·         System for the provision of complementary documentation: the limitations of broadband and the limits to the volume of documents that can be signed electronically have led to the creation of a system consisting of the creation of a digital storage service. 

·          The e-Administration platform. 

·          System for the video broadcasting of the opening ceremonies. 

·          Early warning alerts. 

All the interventions are guaranteed by recognised electronic signature certificates, highlighting the fact that the telematic bids are broken up and encrypted against the recognised electronic signature certificates of all the members of each procurement board. This procedure is probably the only one of its kind in Europe. 

All the processes are carried out on the tendering company’s PC.     Not a single bit is transferred to our servers until the offer is firm and electronically protected by 3 different consecutive methods: 

·          Fragmenting the bids in as many portions as officers involved in the electronic desk. 

·         Encrypting the bid fragments against the public keys of all the members of the electronic desk. 

·          Transferring the encrypted fragments to our servers under SSL Security Protocol. 

(For more information, see Additional Documents N1, N2 and N3). Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards, Accessibility-compliant (minimum WAI AA)

Main results, benefits and impacts

Thanks to eProcurement, there has been a significant opening-up of the market of the Basque Government, which can be seen in the following figures: 

·          The number of companies that take part in tenders has increased by 14%.

·          The number of companies filed with the Official Contractors Register has increased by 18%.  Filing with the register indicates the company's intention of becoming a usual participant in tenders. 

In the period 2006-2008, the user service centre attended 1409 requests for support filed by the companies that take part in tenders, totalling the figure of 1056 hours of operative collaboration for solving technical incidents and queries. 

In 2008, a satisfaction questionnaire was completed by bidding companies.  We can highlight the following:  

·          78% of those surveyed rated the e-procurement system as good or very good.

·          87% of those surveyed did not indicate that they had had problems with tendering electronically.

·          50% of those surveyed requested help from the user support centre and 80% of those who did so rated the service as good or very good. 

In the period 2006-2008, 27 diffusion days were held for the companies that take part in tenders, involving the attendance of 1324 individuals on behalf of 1100 companies, almost one third of our usual suppliers. 

In the area of training, the following milestones have been reached: 

·          We have given 110 in-class training courses that have involved 1019 individuals.

·          The total number of downloads of our videos on YouTube exceeds the figure of 14,000.

·          More than 600 free tenders have been offered.

·          220 procurement technicians have been trained over an accumulated total of 5500 hours of training. 

The 21 catalogues, which we offer on the various aspects of eProcurement, have become a mandatory reference for any Spanish public administration wishing to adopt eProcurement. Our annual reports have been used as a basis for several doctoral theses completed at Spanish universities. 

The following have been the most important operative achievements: 

·          The Basque Government has been the first Spanish public Administration to launch exclusively eProcurement project.

·          The Basque Health Service developed its first electronic tender for the procurement of drugs, becoming the first organisation in the health sector to carry out eProcurement processes in Spain.

·          The Basque Government has been the first Spanish administration to accept e-bid bonds.

·          The Basque Government was the first public administration in Spain to certify OJS eSender by the European Commission and automatically send announcements to the Official Journal of the European Union.

·          Nine departments of the Basque Government and eight autonomous bodies and public institutions regularly hold electronic tenders, with an accumulated total of 137 electronic tenders totalling an accumulated volume of €110 million.

·          Most of the goods and services contracted by means of eProcurement correspond to the provision of intellectual services (consultancy services, computer developments, advertising, etc.), an area that is not very common in eProcurement. This means that our initiatives are highly innovative in comparison with the eProcurement carried out by other European Administrations.

·          65% of the projects have received digital bids and, on average, 27.6% are received as digital bids.

·          Frequent electronic tenders are being held with a majority of digital bids. 

In June 2008, the Basque Government agreed the incorporation of social, environmental criteria and other public policies in the procurement of the autonomous community's administration and its public sector. Accordingly, it became the first Spanish public administration to incorporate environmental and sustainability criteria as a general rule in its human processes.

(For more information, see Additional Documents N1, N2 and N3).

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

For the past 3 years, the Basque Government has presented its eProcurement system at the following events: 

·          Training courses on the administrative procurement of the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA).

·          15 conferences organised by public and private institutions across Spain.

·          IANIS + Conference.

·          Meeting of the EU eProcurement Working Group.

·          Plenary meeting of the eProcure project.

·          International Public Procurement Congress in Amsterdam.

·          Plenary meeting of the European Open Method of Coordination - Public Technology Document Project.

·          United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

·          Participation in the day titled "Social Consideration and Social Clauses in Public Procurement" in Helsinki. 

The Basque Government's eProcurement System is included in ePractice.eu as case 2159 under the name of Public Electronic Tendering System of the Basque Country (eProcurement, Spain).  

The Basque Government and the European Institute of Public Administration have collaborated on the organisation of 3 (three) international seminars on International Public eProcurement, which were held in Bilbao and San Sebastián in 2004, 2006 and 2007. 

The Basque Government fosters collaboration within the framework of public eProcurement and, accordingly, wishes to provide the following stable instruments for collaborating with the administrations that are interested:  To date, the specific forms of collaboration have been as follows: 

·     Knowledge exchange:

-          The Basque Government takes an active part in the "eProcurement" working party promoted by the Ministry of Public Administration of the Government of Spain and the 17 Regions.

-          The Basque Government has taken part in working parties or in knowledge exchange sessions with the Ministry of Public Administration and 5 Regional Governments of Spain (Catalonia, Andalusia, Valencia, Galicia and Extremadura). 

·     Development of an agreement for the transfer of eProcurement system technology to other interested administrations. The convention includes the following options:

-          Use of the electronic tender system by other administrations.

-          Delivery of source code for the electronic tendering product software. 

·     General offer for collaboration for the extension of eProcurement to the Federation of Municipalities and the 3 provincial governments of the Basque Country. 

Finally, all applications, information and educational materials are considered “open source” and available to all interested administrations.

(For more information, see Additional Documents N1, N2 and N3).

Lessons learnt

 ·          Firm political will for eProcurement adoption is essential. 

·          The interoperability between institutions providing electronic signatures needs to be improved. 

·          A high diversity of platforms will stand as an obstacle to the adoption of eProcurement.   So, it would be useful to share “open source” developments. 

·          Training in eProcurement has been very well received by companies, serving as a good vehicle for its extension.  Small and Medium-sized Enterprises were the most committed users of our tendering system. 

·          The various forms of eProcurement, due to the strictness of the applicable regulations, are ideal for studying and establishing the control and monitoring mechanisms required by the regulatory and legal aspects that govern the administration’s digital services. 

·            As mentioned earlier, our procurement activity is mainly devoted to contracting mastermind services.   Therefore, the offers we receive are complex and heavy.     Sometimes, companies have tried to send offers of over 250 Mb.  Our main operative limitation, at present, is the maximum volume of the file that can be electronically signed and sent.  Today, we face the following limitations: 

-          The low bandwidth available. As you probably know, the European Commission estimates that, compared to other European countries, bandwidth is extremely expensive in Spain.

-          In many cases, as a result of the low bandwidth, companies risk attending the maximum duration of the time window (2 hours) allocated to the digital bid signature and sending sessions.

-          We also suffer from the limits of Java technology.   In many cases, the Java Virtual Machine breaks down when trying to sign large files electronically.

-          A similar problem arises with electronic signature software,   which fails tragically when trying to sign files over 40 Mb. 

Accordingly, in order to overcome the said limitations, we will proceed with the following in the year 2009: 

-          The adoption of two time-separated electronic tendering stages, within a 24-hour deadline, as provided in the new Spanish contracting law.

-          We would also like to develop the system for the contribution of complementary documentation, which is a new system we have called “the lift system” in order to provide a new tool for forwarding technical annexes, brochures, general corporate information and project references.  These elements are by far the ones that create the most relevant difficulties when signing and sending offers related to mastermind services.

Scope: Regional (sub-national)
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