Public procurement and social goals – where are we now?

18 April 2016 was the deadline for Member States to integrate the new Public Procurement Directive in their national laws. One year after, what has happened?

One year after the deadline, ten Member States still haven’t converted the directive into national law: Belgium, Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Finland and Sweden.

The new directive has paved the way for a new dynamic that should trigger local authorities to buy services, goods and works that ensure value for money, respect the environment, and contribute to social cohesion and innovation. Many of our readers will remember how much work Social Platform and our members put into advocating for social objectives to be included in public procurement processes. We are happy with the overall result!

However, our work is far from over. To get the most out of the directive it is necessary to put in place measures to ensure its effective implementation: training, legal advice, and exchange of good practices from other EU countries. We’ve contributed towards supporting this process through our publication“Public procurement for social progress”, available in seven languages on our website.

As a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on social entrepreneurship, Social Platform also contributed to the draft report on how to improve the legal environment to enable the development of social economy and social enterprises, including on public procurement.

Recently I participated in a workshop organised by the European Public Services Unions (EPSU), where I had the opportunity to present our work. Social Platform and our members have been advocating for:

  • Tendering procedures reserved for to economic operators that support the work integration of people with disabilities and disadvantaged people.
  • More focus on sustainable development, social and environmental objectives in tendering procedures, especially for public contracts for social and health services.
  • Setting specific rules for social services that take into account the need to ensure quality, continuity, accessibility, users’ needs, involvement and empowerment of users.
  • The possibility to restrict tendering procedures for social services to social economy organisations, where possible and useful.

So far we know that the Czech Republic and Slovakia have included in their laws the possibility to reserve contracts for economic operators that make sure employ at least 50% of the people they employ have a disability. They decided not to include the two novelties of the directive: extending this possibility to economic operators that employ disadvantaged workers (beyond people with disabilities) and lowering the percentage of disadvantaged people that have to be employed from 50% to 30%. On the contrary, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovenia included all the novelties.

There is still a long way to go for Member States and contracting authorities to fully embrace social goals in public procurement procedures. We are happy to see that the European Commission has agreed on some key actions for better implementation of social public procurement, including by increasing cooperation between companies and social economy enterprises.