Comment: European Single Procurement Document – what is it and why should you care?
Tendering for a public sector contract can be a daunting task for any organisation, whether it’s a large corporate or an SME, the process is often thought to be complex and time consuming and can slow down the supply chain if not followed correctly.
By October 2018 all public sector purchasing bodies in the UK must ensure all of their procurement is done electronically. In line with this change we have also seen the electronic version of the European Single Procurement Document (eESPD) come into use, which became mandatory in April 2018. This was designed not only to help improve procurement processes, but also to support a more competitive and fair market place across EU member states.
Although the electronic version of ESPD has been in place for the past couple of months (and the paper based version for a couple of years), the constituent countries of the UK have not adopted ESPD in the same way. The focus on standardising the process across all European countries hasn’t quite come to fruition, but the pre-qualification process has still been improved.
As a result, it’s really important for suppliers to understand the ESPD/Selection Questionnaire process that is being used by the buyer and to understand what ESPD is and why it can help improve efficiencies in procurement if adopted by everyone:
What is the ESPD?
- The European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) is a standard selection form created by the European Commission
- The ESPD response is part of a supplier’s application to supply goods, works or services to a buyer
- It should be used by all EU member states across all of the public authorities within them
- It has been introduced to replace the need for suppliers to provide up front evidence that they are a suitable contractor for the job
- It contains a number of standard selection and qualification questions that cannot be altered ensuring consistency across all tender applications
Why has the ESPD been created?
- To make the process of tendering easier – especially for SME organisations as it ensures that they are treated the same as larger companies
- To remove the ‘burden of proof’ – it replaces the requirement for suppliers to provide up-front evidence or certificates by allowing them to self-declare
- To encourage cross-country tendering along with ECertis (a document mapping tool to help with cross border procurement)
What questions are in the ESPD?
- Within a contract notice buyers explain their exclusion and selection criteria with questions coming under those two categories
- Selection criteria includes: information on enrolment in a relevant professional register, professional risk indemnity insurance, supply chain management and general yearly turnover
- Exclusion criteria includes: information on participation in criminal organisations, corruption, fraud, non-payment of taxes and breaching environmental law
What are the positives of using the ESPD?
- It can be reused by public buyers and business and involved less form filling which means more time spent on your business
- Easier to compete for European tenders as they can be intelligently linked with national databases as well as between different ESPD services
- Previously long-drawn-out requirements have been removed
Despite tightening budgets, public sector spending is expected to reach £814 billion this year providing huge opportunities for both large and small firms as buyers continue to look to the private sector to help improve efficiencies.
Whether you provide a niche service or product, or operate across a number of different industries, a move into the public sector provides an opportunity to protect profit margins and continue to grow when private investment may be limited. Failing to understand the ESPD, which should help to streamline the process, limits these opportunities and a firm’s ability to compete in the public sector marketplace.
Penny Godfrey is General Manager at Proactis, overseeing specialist procurement services including myTenders, Tenders Direct and ESPD.eu. For more information and guidance on how ESPD could impact your public sector tendering, get in touch with the team.
Will Public Procurement Budgets Increase in 2021?
Procurement is more than just a private enterprise. COVID-19 reminded us that sourcing materials is an essential part of the government’s role. Throughout 2022, tiny departments sourced massive amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and emergency vaccines and testing kits. Even non-procurement professionals were pulled into the fray, as frantic timelines demanded nothing less.
According to Celeste Frye, co-founder and CEO of Public Works Partners, the crisis brought procurement to the attention of skilled employees who had never considered it. As non-procurement personnel stepped up to help their coworkers, many found that they’d stumbled upon a critical and rewarding job. “Existing public employees have seen the essential nature of the work”, Frye said. “[They’ve] gained some critical skills and possibly [grown] interested in pursuing procurement as a longer-term career”.
Small, Local Suppliers Take Charge
Frye, whose firm helps organisations engage stakeholders and develop long-term procurement strategies, thinks it well worth the effort to open one’s mind to new opportunities. Cooperative contracts, for instance, can help public departments and municipalities save money, time, and effort. By joining together with other towns or cities in the region, public procurement teams aggregate their purchasing power and can drive better deals.
These cooperative contracts have the added benefit of advancing equity. Smaller suppliers that struggle to compete with established firms for government contracts can act as subcontractors, helping big suppliers fulfil bits of the project. Once they get their foot in the door, small, local, and disadvantaged suppliers can then leverage that government relationship to take on additional projects.
Especially as governments start to pay attention to procurement resilience, public procurement departments must expand their requests for proposals (RFPs) to take into account innovative solutions and diverse suppliers. According to Frye, Public Works Partners—a certified female-owned firm—has benefitted from local and state requirements that specify diversity.
Post-Pandemic Funding Swells Procurement Budgets
And the pandemic won’t be the end of it. City governments need to build sustainable energy infrastructure such as solar panels, charging stations, and recycling plants, ensure that masks and medicines are never in short supply, and source new technologies to keep up with cloud and cybersecurity concerns.
Public procurement budgets will likely increase to match demand. As Peter Ware, Partner and Head of Government at Browne Jacobson, explained, “in a non-pandemic world, the [U.K.] government spends on average around £290 billion on outsourced services, goods, and works...anywhere between 10% and 14% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Post-pandemic, city procurement will only increase as national governments provide local divisions with emergency funding.
And in truth, government employees might jump at the opportunity. Frye noted that public procurement could give immediate feedback on new programmes: “[Procurement] is where new laws and policies ‘hit the road’ and are implemented”, she said. “Professionals in these fields get the satisfaction of creating real change and seeing quantifiable outcomes of their work”.