The European Commission (EC) has outlined ways to boost member states' use of electronic procurement systems to deliver savings and open government contracts to SMEs.
The EC will convene an informal group of experts on e-tendering to work on the design and implementation of systems and policy strategies to create a single system of procurement across Europe.
The EC has also responded to submissions to its green paper on the use of electronic tendering, noting that a small minority of respondents want to make the use of e-procurement systems mandatory for tenders.
Finally, the EC will set up a monitoring and benchmarking initiative to evaluate the use of e-procurement systems and gather information that policy makers in member states can use as best practice guidelines.
Commissioner Michael Barnier, responsible for the internal market and services, explained that the use of online systems for procurement will continue to grow, and that member states must look at the technology as soon as possible.
"E-procurement is the future of public procurement. It delivers better procurement outcomes, reduces waste and error, and helps public purchasers manage complex transactions," he said.
"In five to 10 years' time, most public procurement administration will be electronic. We have to start preparing for that change now. At EU level, we have to ensure that the legal and policy environment supports the switchover."
The EC also noted that SMEs could benefit from the wider use of e-procurement systems because they make it easier to tender for government contracts.
"E-procurement's potential to increase access must be fully realised. This does not just relate to possible cross-border participation, but to attracting all interested and eligible suppliers, big and small," it said.
"Some countries have introduced strategies to encourage SMEs to adopt e-procurement practices. These strategies appear to have been successful, with a significant proportion of SMEs registering on the various platforms and providing bids."
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