Tuesday, 23 December 2008

EU procurement: Electronic means

The EC (EU) Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC defines electronic means in Article 1.13:

13. ‘Electronic means’ means using electronic equipment for the processing (including digital compression) and storage of data which is transmitted, conveyed and received by wire, by radio, by optical means or by other electromagnetic means.


Electronic equals writing

In the preceding post, EU procurement: Written or in writing, we saw that electronic information is included in the definition of written and in writing.

We also saw that a public contract must be in writing and that written communication is essential throughout the award process.

Here is the EC (EU) Procurement Directive 2004/18/EC definition of written and in writing in Article 1.12, which we looked at yesterday:

12. ‘Written’ or ‘in writing’ means any expression consisting of words or figures which can be read, reproduced and subsequently communicated. It may include information which is transmitted and stored by electronic means.


Use of electronic means

We have seen that electronic means have been put on an equal footing with other written communication, but the bare definition of electronic means does not even begin to convey the importance attached to the concept.

We look at just a few of the many examples in the Procurement Directive of electronic communication used in procurement procedures.


Electronic auctions

The Recitals present the background and the reasons for the new Procurement Directive or Classic Directive.

Recital 14 describes electronic auctions:

(14) Since use of the technique of electronic auctions is likely to increase, such auctions should be given a Community definition and governed by specific rules in order to ensure that they operate in full accordance with the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency. To that end, provision should be made for such electronic auctions to deal only with contracts for works, supplies or services for which the specifications can be determined with precision. Such may in particular be the case for recurring supplies, works and service contracts. With the same objective, it must also to be possible to establish the respective ranking of the tenderers at any stage of the electronic auction. Recourse to electronic auctions enables contracting authorities to ask tenderers to submit new prices, revised downwards, and when the contract is awarded to the most economically advantageous tender, also to improve elements of the tenders other than prices. In order to guarantee compliance with the principle of transparency, only the elements suitable for automatic evaluation by electronic means, without any intervention and/or appreciation by the contracting authority, may be the object of electronic auctions, that is, only the elements which are quantifiable so that they can be expressed in figures or percentages. On the other hand, those aspects of the tenders which imply an appreciation of non-quantifiable elements should not be the object of electronic auctions. Consequently, certain works contracts and certain service contracts having as their subject-matter intellectual performances, such as the design of works, should not be the object of electronic auctions.



Recital 35 describes the potential advantages of electronic information exchange:

(35) In view of new developments in information and communications technology, and the simplifications these can bring in terms of publicising contracts and the efficiency and transparency of procurement processes, electronic means should be put on a par with traditional means of communication and information exchange. As far as possible, the means and technology chosen should be compatible with the technologies used in other Member States.


Electronic signatures

Recital 37 mentions the aim to encourage the use of advanced electronic signatures:

(37) Directive 1999/93/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 1999 on a Community framework for electronic signatures (3) and Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the internal market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’) should, in the context of this Directive, apply to the transmission of information by electronic means. The public procurement procedures and the rules applicable to service contests require a level of security and confidentiality higher than that required by these Directives. Accordingly, the devices for the electronic receipt of offers, requests to participate and plans and projects should comply with specific additional requirements. To this end, use of electronic signatures, in particular advanced electronic signatures, should, as far as possible, be encouraged. Moreover, the existence of voluntary accreditation schemes could constitute a favourable framework for enhancing the level of certification service provision for these devices.



Beyond the definitions, we turn to European public procurement practice and projects aiming at reaping the benefits of electronic communications, important for the future of procurement and government services in general.

SIMAP describes itself as the gateway to European public procurement. The following greeting refers to electronic means:

Information system for European public procurement

The SIMAP portal provides access to most important information about public procurement in Europe.

Tender notices are published on TED website, the single official source of public contracts in Europe. Most of public procurement notices are sent for publication through an electronic channel. A web-based tool — eNotices — simplifies and speeds up preparation and publication of tender notices. eSenders service allows qualified organisations to submit notices directly as XML files.



TED – Tenders Electronic Daily

TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) is the online version of the 'Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union', dedicated to European public procurement. This is the meeting place for notices from contracting authorities and businesses looking for opportunities in the procurement markets:




Further proof of the EU’s drive towards electronic services is IDABC.

The IDABC Programme stands for Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Business and Citizens. It takes advantage of the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies:




ePractice is a web portal dedicated the development of eGovernment services, with news and information:


Ralf Grahn