Switching to e-procurement across the European Union will generate new opportunities for growth, ministers say.

At an informal meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council (Internal Market and Industry) held earlier this week (July 22nd-23rd), ministers said that modernising public administration could be a powerful tool in keeping Europe competitive.

Internal market and industry ministers from across the union agreed to encourage member states to push on with switching to online procurement throughout the whole of the process.

“Digitalising all procurement processes can maximise benefits,” said Lithuanian economy minister Evaldas Gustas.

"End-to-end e-procurement integrates all phases of procurement from the electronic publication of notices to electronic payment. It can maximise the efficiency of public expenditure and become a new source of economic growth”.

Smart procurement and transparency were at the heart of the discussions in Vilnius, Lithuania, as well as accountability among state-run enterprises. Ministers generally agreed that state-owned enterprises can play a crucial role in boosting the local economy and are encouraging member states to share their experiences of reforming public sector procurement. In particular, they said that reporting and performance monitoring were areas where these discussions could prove useful.

Indeed, accountability and transparency were agreed to be crucial in state procurement, since they give citizens and policymakers alike the chance to ensure that the taxpayers gets the best possible value for money out of state assets.

But ministers also stressed the importance of responding to the specific needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Not only is this crucial in stimulating business activity to promote growth, but smaller suppliers can often provide the flexibility needed to make government procurement more efficient. As a result member states are being encouraged to simplify their business licensing procedures to make sure that small firms are not put off from bidding for government contracts.

Mr Gustas said that because small and medium-sized firms can have a serious impact on economies through creating jobs and stimulating growth, governments need to act quickly to reduce the administrative burden of them through better application of the “think small first” principle.

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