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Hearing on Public Procurement Directive

The hearing on 'The new public procurement directive, a step forward for the quality and sustainability of SSGI' took place in the afternoon of 13th November 2013 and it was co-hosted by MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen and MEP Nils Torvalds. The new proposal of Directive on Public Procurement acknowledges the specificities of social services as general interest services, and provides a specific regime. In view of the importance of this step in the field of social services, EASPD organized this event in order to enhance the understanding of this Directive and allow for a constructive debate on the subject. You can find the full programme here.

Panel 1

The first panel, chaired by Luk Zelderloo, consisted of three speakers, two representatives of the European Commission Ms Paola Zanetti from DG MARKT and Ms Concetta Cultrera from DG EMPL and Ms Valentina Caimi from the Social Platform of European NGOs.

 

Ms Paola Zanetti held a presentation on the new directive, where she gave background information on the process and the state of play of today. The text results from a political agreement reached after a trialogue between the Council, the Parliament and the European Commission. The agreement with the Parliament was reached during Summer 2013 and will go into plenary session in January 2014. Member States will then have two years to implement the new provisions, as well as an extra two months to put in place mandatory full electronic communications.

You can find the presentation slides here.

Ms Concetta Cultrera spoke about the new legal framework for SSGI: what has changed and why it has improved. After analysing the articles which rule to the provision of social services, she made clear that the specificity of social services was recognised and that for this reason Member States will have a great discretion in their organisation and financing.

You can find the presentation slides here.

Ms Valentina Caimi commented on the trialogue negotiations, the successes and missed opportunities of the process. Social Platform is the largest EU civil society alliance and EASPD is one of its members. The overall assessment was positive: the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) is the main award criterion for all procedures. However, there are some ambiguities in the forumulation, that are advising more than compelling Member States to follow the quality criterion.Ms Caimi concluded that the most important part remains yet to be done: making sure Member States adopt the text and transpose it rapidly.Social Platform will work with its members and with the Network for Sustainable Development in public procurement to draft some guidelines in view of a good transposition at national level 
 

You can find the presentation slides here.
 

Panel 2

The second panel was composed of five speakers and chaired by Kirsi Konola, Vice-President of EASPD and Director of Development Activitiesfrom KPVS, a Finnish member of EASPD.

Franz Wolfmayr, EASPD President, started off by talking about the impact of the new framework on services for Persons with Disabilities: SSGI are personalised services, set to address essential needs. He concludes that “the overall approach of the proposal for a new directive is welcomed by EASPD, as it is recognising the specificities of SSGI, ensuring them a higher threshold and giving them specific award criteria including quality, affordability, accessibility, availability and comprehensiveness of the services, with specific references to the European Voluntary Quality Framework”. He agreed on the issues raised by the Social Platform, highlighting also the ambiguity of the article on reserved contracts in defining which services are entitled to them. He concluded underlining the key role that Commission has to work for the correct implementation of the Directive.

You can find the abstract of his intervention information here and the EASPD position paper here.

Tiina Lappalainen from the Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities explained the situation in Finland concerning the old directive that currently priviledges costs over quality. The change of directive is therefore very important in the social sector for quality improvement purposes.

You can find the presentation slides here.

Sami Helle is a self-advocate and active in many associations and in politics in Finland and explained the problematic situation of social services in his country as they have been cut, decreasing the quality.

You can find more information here.

Maarten Janssens from the Department of Welfare, Public Health & Family – Policy Development Division of Flanders, drew the distinction between public procurement and system of subsidies. Dr Janssens described the managerial and historical motivation behind welfare provision in Flanders explaining why the government decided not to apply the public procurement directive to their social services.

You can find the presentation slides here.

Conny Reuters spoke about the position of Social Services Europe on the new Directive and believes it is possible to identify quality. In 2011 the network published a briefing on the new Public Procurement Directive and some recommendations. Starting from them he made an assessment on the new directive congratulating the Commission for having recognised the specificities of SSGI as recommended by Social Services Europe but highlighting the risk that the weak formulation of article 76 can leave open to the possibility for contracting authorities to award social services only on the basis of the cost.
        
The position of Social Services Europe on the public procurement directive will be published soon.

The hearing finished with questions from the assembly, as well as concluding remarks by the MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen that was co-hosting the event. Ms Pietikäinen explained that it is unclear how far the new directive will ensure that social services are awarded according to quality criteria and not only on cost basis. A lot will therefore depend on how Member States are going to transpose the directive. She mentioned that as the directive is not compulsory, clear market testing is important.  
 
           
          
You can find EASPD press release here