Leading Portuguese e-procurement platform suspended by regulator

Gatewit, the e-procurement platform with the highest market share in Portugal has had its operational license revoked by the Regulator IMPIC. A significant number of little birdies in the country had told me over the last few months that this was the most likely outcome for the hardball business practices Gatewit had adopted.

In essence, Gatewit was milking the suppliers by charging for services which should have been free as required by Law 96/2015 (which establishes the legal framework for e-procurement platforms), "double dipping" by charging both to the contracting and economic operators. We are talking about charging the latter for simple stuff such as technical support, multiple users and the requirement of certificates produced by Gatewit where none were required.

In consequence, all contracting authorities which had contract their electronic platform solutions with Gatewit are under instructions of IMPIC to resolver their contracts immediately and hire another provider, if needed be by negotiated procedure without prior notice (what we call in Portugal a direct award). This is more than a simply suspension and implies effectively a cancellation of the license to operate.

We'll see if Gatewit complies with the obligations of releasing all data of ongoing procedures (as required by law and requested by IMPIC) or if that is going down the drain as well. If it does not, I do not see any alternative for affected contracting authorities other than cancelling the procedure due to reasons outside their control and re-starting them from scratch.

Some may see on this outcome a vindication that the multi-platform system does not work and a single centrally managed platform would have been preferable but I disagree. The fact the operational license for the largest platform was cancelled by IMPIC (with clear instructions on how to weather the storm) indicates the system is working as it should. On balance I think we're better off with multiple providers offering competing solutions and continually improving their service. My view would be different had the regulator not acted which would imply a degree of regulatory capture.

PS: As in Portugal all contracts have to be tendered via e-procurement platforms, this is a significant disruption for the country's public procurement practice.