European Court of Auditors publishes report on public procurement

The European Court of Auditors published yesterday its report on EU public procurement between 2011 and 2021, looking into the competition for public contracts covered by EU rules. Frankly, it makes for grim reading:

“Overall, we conclude that the level of competition for public contracts to deliver works, goods and services, decreased over the past 10 years in the EU single market.


Our analysis of the data available indicates a significant increase in single bidding overall, a high level of direct contract awards in most member states and a limited level of direct cross-border procurement between member states. As several objectives of the 2014 reform remain unattained, we conclude that, the entry into force of the 2014 directives has had no demonstrable effect.


Also, as publication rates remain low, transparency, a key safeguard against the risk of fraud and corruption, is negatively affected. We also note that some of the objectives of the 2014 reform may at times go against the overarching objective of ensuring competition in public procurement.”

In all fairness, it goes in line with my own research (unpublished, up to 2019) where I concluded as well that the current regulatory approach is unable to really achieve a single market for public procurement.

The problem is how to go forward from here but the time to start thinking is now. From where I am standing it I see two major alternatives: to go all in and adopt a Regulation, potentially getting rid of the original sin of financial thresholds or, in alternative, recognise that regulating procurement directly for achieving the single market makes no sense and we might as well simply rely in the four freedoms and other legislative approaches less concerned with how procurement processes are carried out.

PS: It is noteworthy to mention that the Commission never did it is own analysis on the current regime as it is mandated to under Article 92 of Directive 2014/24/EU. Its deadline was 18 April 2019.

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