French Public Contracts Awarded to the Favored Few
What if you were a small, regional business owner, offering a service that has the potential to secure government contracts, but, when the government posted potential contract work, you weren’t made aware? Or if only the bigger, national companies had the opportunity to apply for the contracts? Wouldn’t you want the chance to at least present your plan for consideration?
In France, the amount spent on public contracts was €71.5 billion in 2013-2014, with local governments accounting for more than half of all public procurement spending in France. Despite the existence of a national monitoring center for public procurement data, not all municipalities were publishing information about government spending on goods and services.
This lack of reliable and up-to-date information was often preventing local bidders from learning about procurement processes, open calls, and the contracts the government ultimately gives out. In 2015, the government committed to changing this, by adding an open data clause in government contracts to help level the playing field.
Keeping it All in the Open
The commitment to increase transparency of the public procurement process – for both the advertised and awarded contracts – was included in France’s 2015-2017 OGP action plan.The goal was to demystify public procurement by increasing the transparency of calls for tender and clearly publishing information on buyers and awarded contracts. So far, France has made substantial progress: a 2016 law requires that all municipalities must provide free access to data regarding public contracts. To advance France’s public procurement reforms further, the law also requires information on the buyer and the details of the contract be kept up to date during the contract’s implementation, which will remain publicly available for five years after the execution of the contract.
Legal Obligations Revitalize Competition in Opportunity in Public Contracts
Before these reforms, France had no legal requirement to publish information on contracts it was looking to award, and when this information was published, it was not done systematically. Now, with legal mandates to publish data on public contracts so that it can be accessed by anyone, a bigger pool of bidders have the opportunity to apply for government contracts. Bidders in remote areas and smaller firms now have the information to successfully compete for public contracts.
While this commitment represents a win for transparency and is good for business, it also delivers better quality services for citizens and value for money for governments through increased competition.
Access and opportunity to bid for public contracts has been a priority for France. This commitment was carried over to the following OGP action plan, 2018-2020. Since then, the government centralized and standardized contract data on a national open data portal. The aggregation of data is still incomplete at this stage and the deadlines have been extended to 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a large demand in public procurement for medical equipment, testing centers, and vaccines, so the workload for collating this information has increased significantly. Two regions, Occitanie and Bretagne have developed public platforms to monitor public procurement, models which could be replicated throughout the rest of the country to strengthen transparency, accountability and participation in the contracting process.
Check out these resources for further information.