Each year 15 per cent of public administrations flout procurement rules by requesting specific brands and trademarks that prevent competition, shows a European study into 12.808 ICT procurement requests published over the past five years. Nearly a quarter of all awarded ICT requests got one single offer, also indicating there is a lack of competition when it comes to government ICT solutions.
“The stable percentage is not good. The percentage should be decreasing”, commented Thomas Reibe, policy officer at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG Connect). He hopes to get the Directorate General Internal Market, Industry, Entrepeneurship and SME's to take action and boost the efforts to guide and inform procuring authorities.
“The past few years, we made awarness campains through a Commission Communication published in 2013. Now we are promoting best practices, so basically we’ve tried it with carrots”, Mr. Reibe said, “perhaps we need to come up with a stick to take advantage of the huge potential savings for public administrations.”
The results were presented by Rosa Martelli, a consultant for PWC, last week Wednesday at a workshop on the use of open standards for ICT procurement, organised by the European Commission. “The presence of trademarks in such documents is a good proxy for measuring openness of procurement”, said Ms Martelli.
The consultant introduced the results of her study by explaining that she and her colleagues had initially planned to review some 32,000 procurement requests available on TED - Tenders Electronic Daily, where public administrations across the EU can publish their tenders. “Yet half of the dataset was incomplete”, the consultant said. Procuring authorities often do not make available all the documents, and incorrectly use the compulsory Common Procurement Vocabulary codes to list the requested goods or services. “The EC has no controls in place, there is no way to deal with missing or incorrect information”, she said.
Leaving aside incomplete tender and award notices, Ms Martelli and her colleagues looked 2.808 tender award notices published between 2009 and 2013. A top-five of European Member States breaking procurement rules includes Poland (with 360 procurement requests), Germany (with 310), France (290), Spain (196) and the United Kingdom (119). A top-five of software products directly requested includes Microsoft (specified in 436 request), SAP (in 221), Oracle (212), IBM (131) and Sage (102).
The consultants also noted a few tens of procurement requests asking for Linux. “Linux is indeed a trademark,” commented Daniel Melin, a Swedish ICT procurement specialist who attended the workshop, “but it is not a single product, and there multiple suppliers. It is not the same as asking for a brand that can only be provided by a single ICT vendor.”