Dnes sme (@janhargas, @Lubor a @gla) absolvovali stretnutie so zastupcami Europskej Komisie pre oblast verejneho obstaravania, na ktorom sme odprezentovali pohlad iniciativy Slovensko.Digital na hlavne problemy pri nakupe IT na Slovensku a potrebu ich riesenia.
Dobre fungujuce obstaravanie je jednym z hlavnych predpokladov pre zvysenie konkurencie, podporu inovacii cez male a stredne podniky a zabezpecenie efektivnosti verejnych vydavkov.
Stretnutie bolo velmi prinosne. Zastupcovia EK vyjadrili uprimny zaujem na rieseni tejto oblasti v spolupraci s prislusnymi statnymi organizaciami, zastupcami podnikatelov a neziskovym sektorom. Uvodne zamery zahrnaju:
- zdielanie znalosti a best practice z inych krajin,
- podpora pri aplikacii usmerneni EK pre obstaravanie IT a dohlad nad ich dodrziavanim
- podpora vytvarania dostatocnych kapacit na strane statu v oblasti obstaravania IT
“Briefing paper”, ktory sme EK poskytli:
##Statement of the “Slovensko.Digital” initiative regarding Public Procurement of ICT goods and services
Context of this memo
The Slovak government is investing heavily into its ICT capabilities and most of this investment is financed through EU Structural funds. The first phase (app. €850 million) was carried out under the Operational Programme Information Society 2007-2013 and the outcomes of this programme might not have fulfilled the expectations of the general public. As a result of that, “Slovensko.Digital”, an initiative of IT professionals and NGOs, published a call for more transparent and efficient investments into government ICT. We believe that poor public procurement processes and lack of competition might have been one of the reasons behind the poor performance of the programme.
Today, we are at the starting point of another significant (app. €950 million) ICT programme financed by the EU, through the Operational Programme Integrated Infrastructure 2014-2020. We think that, given this context, it is necessary to ensure, that investments of EU taxpayers’ money follow all EC guidelines for efficient ICT procurement and the EU Public Procurement Strategy. We take this opportunity to highlight some of the areas, where improvements can be achieved through closer collaboration between EC and Slovak authorities.
Does ICT procurement need special attention?
Procurement of ICT goods and services is a fairly complicated matter. Diversity of solutions and services makes it a highly complex domain to govern. In the light of the Digital Agenda for Europe, EC acknowledges this complexity: “Digital and technology are fast-paced industries. Technology is continuously changing, evolving and providing functionality that we could previously only dream of. And the general industry trend is moving to focusing on delivering small, manageable, technology projects rather than huge mega-projects that are inherently more risky and therefore more likely to fail. Traditional public procurement is focussed on the opposite of where technology is today. Volume deals and longer contracts are procurement approaches to reduce costs.”
This difference in approaches brings about multiple challenges:
- large ICT contracts (as means of achieving efficiency) lock authorities into systems or services that are outdated and often inflexible. This is called “supplier lock-in” and is estimated to cost the EU €1.1bn a year
- procurement of huge mega-projects limits the competition in general and specifically limits the ability of SMEs to take part in the procurement process
- the use of traditional procurement methods in ICT is a missed opportunity in a sector that explicitly calls for flexibility and innovative procurement methods
In the light of these learnings, the EC has already taken several steps to ensure that ICT in the Member States is procured in the most effective and efficient way and that the best practice is shared across the EU. As part of Action 23 of the Digital Agenda, the European Commission developed guidance on ICT public procurement and issued it along with Communication in June 2013. We also recognise that challenges of ICT procurement described above are fully in scope of the EU Public Procurement Strategy.
Application of these standards and strategies in Slovakia, however, is limited and could be improved.
What are the challenges in Slovakia?
Procurement of ICT goods and services in Slovakia suffers from the lack of ownership and lack of ambition to achieve better value for money. Despite the availability of best practice and guidelines, there are several areas where the procurement of ICT goods and services in Slovakia simply lags behind:
- ICT is often procured in the form of multi-million, multi-annual projects where the project size and technical specifications limit competition and involvement of SMEs;
- sub-contractors are not disclosed, despite often delivering most of the project work, and thus disclosure of their identities would be in the public interest. This raises concerns about the levels competition and even corruption in the public procurement;
- standards for ICT procurement are outdated, not reflecting the EC guidelines and are not applied accordingly;
- ICT procurement lacks clear ownership and KPIs to promote efficiency and competition;
- ICT is often procured in a de-centralised manner, even though there are benefits in centralised procurement of e.g. software licenses or hardware;
- intellectual property rights to ICT are applied inconsistently, leading to vendor lock-in and non-transparent procurements without competition;
- there is lack of expert discussion about supporting procurement documentation (e.g. feasibility studies or business appraisals) which leads to poor tender documentation;
- there is limited use of innovative procurement and commercial methods in ICT;
- lack of ICT related training and capabilities in the government procurement functions limits the quality of tender documentation.
These challenges are valid for projects funded from national funding as well as EU funded programmes where governance processes might not reflect specifics of ICT procurement.
It is important to ensure that investments into ICT in Slovakia follow best practice and strategies developed by the EC. This is even more important in EU funded programmes over the next years.
We see the potential for the EC and respective public authorities in Slovakia to work more closely together in order to ensure that:
- ICT procurements follow the EC guidelines and strategies for this domain
- there are sufficient governance procedures in the ICT procurements driving transparency, efficiency and competition (including SME participation)
- learnings get shared more widely and the EU funded ICT programmes in Slovakia turn into a positive case study supporting the intentions behind the Digital Agenda as well as the EC Public Procurement Strategy
NGO initiative “Slovensko.Digital” will be happy to assist in this process and work closely with EC and the national bodies in order to achieve these goals.