Netherlands Furthers Pre-Award Adoption
The Netherlands, with its longstanding reputation as an important trading nation, sees significant potential in using electronic procurement to increase efficiency and accelerate cross-border business opportunities in Europe. As a leader in the effort to develop CEN BII profiles for pre-award tendering and procurement processes, it is helping make the full electronic procurement process a productive reality in Europe.
The Netherlands, with 1500 public contracting bodies purchasing €60 billion of work, services and supplies annually, is eager to professionalise procurement and tendering in all government departments. With a variety of systems in use and the need to streamline processes, in 2005 the Ministry of Economic Affairs established PIANOo, the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre. It works with a network of 3,500 public procurement and tendering professionals to link procurement to policy aims and budgets, focusing on efficiency and quality rather than solely on tendering rules and the lowest price.
“Administrative burdens need to be reduced if we are going to realise the full potential of the European single market,” said Maarten Kaster, PIANOo’s Deputy Director. “By bringing together procurement and tendering experts to foster dialogue between public contracting authorities and private sector companies, we believe we can make a significant difference in the delivery of effective public services.”
PIANOo set out to improve efficiency in public processes and provide greater value for taxpayers’ money. It joined CEN BII (Business Interoperability Interfaces for Public Procurement in Europe) Workshop in 2009 to move forward with electronic procurement, and at the same time, developed TenderNed, a national system for electronic procurement. By facilitating and automating the procurement process, TenderNed would allow contracting authorities and economic operators to focus more effort on the substance of the assignment or tender, saving time and resources.
PIANOo was actively involved in developing the CEN BII profiles, and implemented them in TenderNed concurrently. TenderNed implemented the BII profiles Call for Tender, Qualification and Tender by modelling their systems to the BII information requirements. TenderNed went live in 2012, and all Dutch Contracting Authorities are now required to publish tenders on it. While primarily Dutch Economic Operators currently use the system to track business opportunities, foreign suppliers are also allowed to register and submit offers.
“All authorities publish their national and European tenders on the TenderNed platform, so businesses can access all government tenders in one single location,” said Kornelis Drijfhout, TenderNed’s Information Manager. “TenderNed has aligned the system to the CEN BII profiles using structured information for electronic processes, ensuring compliance with the EU Directive on public procurement.”
By March 2016, electronic notification and electronic access to tender documents will become mandatory in the EU. By March 2017, electronic submission of offers (e-Submission) will become mandatory for central purchasing bodies, and by September 2018, for all contracting authorities. CEN BII deliverables will be ready in 2015 before the procurement directive goes into force.
To improve the quality of public procurement in the Netherlands, PIANOo undertakes a number of activities. In addition to maintaining a complete website on Dutch public procurement featuring the latest news and updates, PIANOo provides a discussion platform exclusively for public sector procurement professionals and contracting authorities. This virtual meeting place allows participants to exchange experiences, ask questions, take part in discussions, share files, collaborate on documents and plan projects, with PIANOo’s helpdesk available to answer more specific queries. A variety of informational meetings and discussions are held around the country on a regular basis, and a national conference brings all public procurement officials together annually.
“Of the 1500 contracting authorities that use TenderNed, 50% are now fully electronic, and we expect the rest to be upgraded in the next two years,” said Drijfhout. “20,000 supplier companies are now registered, 500 of which are foreign, and we anticipate that these numbers will increase rapidly once we complete the e-SENS pilot and reach full production.”
e-SENS (Electronic Simple European Networked Services) is a new large scale pilot project that will consolidate, improve and extend electronic interactions with public administrations to improve the quality of public services in the EU. Seven governments are participating in the e-SENS implementation of the CEN BII pre-award procurement processes. TenderNed is part of this project.
“In the e-SENS pilot, we will implement all BII profiles in the pre-award procurement procedure across national borders,” said Drijfhout. “In a recent e-SENS pilot, three tendering systems in three different countries connected via two gateways to successfully exchange messages. This pilot will now be expanded to more countries and different types of messages. It will pave the way for true interoperability between different tendering systems.”
When the system is fully functional, a contracting authority will create a call for tender based on BII profiles and a European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) template. A potential supplier that implements the BII Qualification profile will then create their own ESPD to respond to the opportunity simply and quickly.
“Post-award has been very successful in CEN BII, and we believe the same can be accomplished with pre-award,” said Drijfhout. “Once we show the benefits from systems in production, contracting authorities will be able to reach many more potential suppliers throughout Europe, and similarly, businesses will find many more opportunities.”