The Belgian e-Tendering platform (ETENBEL)

Published on: 09/11/2007
The Belgian Federal Public Service P&O and the Federal Public Service for IT have set up an e-Tendering platform, implementing one of the modules of the larger eProcurement project. The Belgian e-Tendering Platform is an open, secure, inter-operable and re-configurable system where contracting authorities and economic operators can perform multiple tasks related to the submission and opening of electronic tenders, based on open European standards, EC directives and Belgian legislation.

Policy Context

Belgian e-Tendering is a sub-project of the eProcurement project which aims at dematerialising the procedures in the field of public procurement by 2010. In Belgium, the Federal Public Service Personnel and Organization ( FPS P&O ) has taken the lead of this project from January 2005. The FPS P&O has first elaborated a roadmap that not only details the planning and deliverables of the Belgian eProcurement project, but also specifies the way-to-go concerning technical choices, open source strategy, procurement planning, collaboration with other authorities, etc. They key stone of the eProcurement project is its modularity. The FPS P&O will gradually implement the eProcurement modules one by one, allowing us to adept to the Belgian law undergoing some major changes. It also gives the opportunity to profit from the lessons learned in other EU countries allowing us to better align the functionalities with business requirements. This approach also allows better time and budgetary management and results in easier manageable contracts. The second module of the eProcurement project is the e-Tendering module. It allows the submission of electronic tenders and the electronic opening. The end result is a publicly published official report with some information on the opening session. The e-Tendering application is completely based on EC directives 2004/18/EG and the Belgian law and the Royal Decree of 28 February 2004, laying down some rules for electronic submission. To sign a tender, an economic operator needs to sign electronically and therefore e-Tendering is also based on the Belgian law concerning the electronic signatures (9 July, 2001 ).

Description of target users and groups

The main target groups are the Belgian federal contracting authorities and all economic operators throughout the world interested in the Belgian public market. The target group can also be extended to other levels of public governments such as regions and local authorities.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The project is run and managed by the federal service Personnel and Organization. The SW developments that are the basis of the services provided are subcontracted to European Dynamics. Though, the FPS P&O has the ownership of everything produced by the contractor. To manage and reach strategic goals the eProcurement team has formed a steering group of several key users of the eProcurement products. Apart from this steering group, the user group gives input and feedback on functional issues of the eProcurement applications. In short time, other central and regional Belgian public administrations can actively participate in functional and strategic discussions allowing them to make e-Tendering more in-line with their business requirements.

Technology solution

e-Tendering is a web based application, completely based on open source components . It uses J2EE technology with apache, tomcat, mysql, etc. It is based on open standards such as HTML, TSA, XML, SSL, OCSP, PKCS12, etc. The application implements the use of the Belgian e-ID card, which gives Belgian economic operators the possibility to easily sign their documents. Foreign economic operators can use a valid and qualified certificate which can be exported. Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards, Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The e-Tendering application is in its implementation phase. From 2008, the e-Tendering application will be automatically linked with the new publication application e-Notification which will (if the contracting authority allows it) activate the use of e-Tendering. Then it will be available for all the federal contracting authorities and other.This will tremendously increase the number of public procurement contracts and submitted tenders.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - In order to submit electronic offers, the economic operators have to sign their documents. e-Tendering allows the use of the Belgian electronic identity card for signing as well as other X.509 digital certificates. One of the major problems we are facing is the mutual recognition and validation of these certificates. As e-Tendering has - up to now - only implemented the pKCS12 interface, few CSP can deliver certificates which meet the EU directives and can be used in e-Tendering. Lesson 2 - The step towards electronic procurement and electronic submission of offers seems very huge for most of the potential users. A good communication campaign is needed to reach and convince costumers. Scope: International, National