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SMEs and Public Procurement. Sharpening the Public Procurement Pencil, Enhancing Public Procurement Practices in North Wales October 10 th , 2012 Institute for Competition & Procurement Studies Bangor University. Prof. Gustavo Piga Director, Master in Procurement Management

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Smes and public procurement



Public Procurement

Sharpening the Public Procurement Pencil, Enhancing Public Procurement Practices in North Wales

October 10th , 2012

Institute for Competition & Procurement Studies

Bangor University

Prof. Gustavo Piga

Director, Master in Procurement Management

Department of Business, Government, Philosophy

University of Rome Tor Vergata

I am here to learn
I amheretolearn ….

  • The Leader of the Party of Wales has called upon the Welsh Government to adopt a buy-local policy to revive the economy. Leanne Wood said 48,000 jobs could be created in Wales by following the Scottish approach to sourcing public sector contracts domestically.

  • “Germany sources 98.9% of its public sector contracts domestically” said Ms Wood. “Is it too ambitious to aim towards a goal of 90% by the end of the decade, to be on a par with most other countries?

  • “We are constrained by our limited powers, but that just means we have to be more imaginative. “In an age of enforced austerity economists have begun to talk about the role of unconventional fiscal policy – not cutting taxes or raising spending – but changing the composition of public spending as a catalyst for growth. “That is perfectly designed for a situation like ours where our financial straitjacket prevents us from varying taxes or raising additional borrowing.”

Buy local is not far from smes
Buy localisnot far fromSMEs….

  • Even if buy local is forbidden, the distributive and allocative implications of it can be similar to preferences for European SMEs.

  • Which Italian SME would ever participate to a Welsh tender restricted to European SME?

  • Directive changes might be needed for that, but probably not Treaty changes. Unfortunately the new Directives …

  • Current (and future) Directives might still allow for EU-SME preferences under threshold.

By the way why talk about preferences
By the way: why talk aboutpreferences?

A fewtinynationshavebeenusingthem:

  • USA (since 1953), SB Act and SB Authority

  • Brazil

  • South Africa

  • China (last year)

  • India is back.

    Shouldn’t we at leastdiscussit?

We tried green paper
Wetried! – Green Paper

  • One idea, for instance, might be to set targets for SME shares in overall procurement.

  • …. could encourage SMEs and start-ups to participate to precommercial procurement?

But now
Butnow …

  • Target shares, subcontractshares and innovationforSMEs are gone.

  • Aggregation of demandismitigated by lots, which in CPBsusuallyimplybetter and more stablecartels.

  • Less link to “subjectmatter” and more negotiationsmake “unfair” evaluations more likely.

  • Simplification and (limited) turnover requirements are forbothlarge and smallfirms: more participationwithout more awards?

The eu paradigm
The EU paradigm

  • “The EU is not in favour of reserving markets to specific undertakings. Such actions would also be in contradiction with the principle of equal treatment of tenderers, a fundamental pillar of the EU public procurement regime anchored by the Court of Justice in the Treaty freedoms.” Green Paper.

And the us one the small business act
And the US one: the Small Business Act

“The essence of the American economic system of private enterprise is free competition … The preservation and expansion of such competition is basic not only to the economic well-being but to the security of this Nation. Such security and well-being cannot be realized unless the actual and potential capacity of small business is encouraged and developed. It is the declared policy of the Congress that the Government should aid, counsel, assist, and protect, insofar as is possible, the interests of small-business concerns in order to preserve free competitive enterprise,to insure that a fair proportion of the total purchases and contracts or subcontracts for property and services for the Government (including but not limited to contracts or subcontracts for maintenance, repair, and construction) be placed with small business enterprises ….”

Is equal treatment at risk
IsEqual Treatment at Risk?

  • But (US) SBA studies point out that “at the aggregate level, regulatory compliance costs per employee appear to be at least 36% higher in small firms than in medium size and large firms”.

  • How could anyone argue that today’s tenders in the EU provides for equal treatment (yes) of equal situations (no)?

Smes are special
SMEs are special

Problems faced by EU bidders, (by bidders size relative to large firms)The column of totals displays on average which portion of firms interviewed answered “always” or “often”

Barriers exist smoking guns
Barriersexist? Smoking guns

  • “In terms of estimated total contract value secured, SMEs accounted for between 31% and 38% of public procurement while their overall share in the economy, as calculated on the basis of their combined turnover is 52%”

    EC Green Paper

Classic solutions to deal with them
Classicsolutionsto deal withthem

- skills assessment and development programs

- business mentoring or coaching

- training in commercial tendering

- small business advice

- simplification of bidding documents and questionnaires

- translation of documents into local language

- lowering or rationalization of pre-qualification criteria

- reduction in costs of bidding, e.g. payment for bidding documents

- lowering of barriers to entry, e.g. compulsory industry registrations

- access to additional or cheaper forms of business financing and investment

- more transparent publication of business opportunities

- communication programs

Smes and public procurement

Unorthodoxsolutions: preferences

“Failing to recognize how affirmative action can be used to enhance procurement competition grossly overstates the cost of affirmative action subsidies.”

For example, nonpartisan state legislative analysts estimate the California Department of General Services spent an additional $9.9 million last year by rejecting low bids from firms that failed to comply with affirmative action requirements. Unfortunately, these estimates ignore how affirmative action may have driven down the low bids that were used as the benchmark. Without the enhanced bidding competition created by affirmative action, these low bids and the low bids on other bidding contracts may have been substantially higher.”

Unorthodox solutions set asides
Unorthodoxsolutions: set asides

  • “For example, if four incumbent construction firms were bidding to build four different playgrounds, they might be able to coordinate their bidding (either tacitly or explicitly) to divide the contracts among themselves.”

  • “Setting aside one of the bidding contracts for traditionally disadvantaged, non-incumbent firms may enhance intragroup competition, as the four incumbents must now compete for just three contracts. Any incumbent that believes it may end up empty-handed is likely to reduce the markup in its sealed bid. While the government may pay more on contracts set aside for traditionally disadvantaged bidders, reduced costs for non-set-aside contracts can lower overall procurement costs.”

Smes and public procurement

Other (+) Impacts of Preferences

Insofar as the lack of competitiveness of small firms with respect to large firms is due to discrimination in credit markets (including as a consequence of delays of payment by governments), inefficiencies from subsidies are reduced.

Dynamiccompetition may make these inefficiencies vanish over time as subsidies today - that encourage small firms to sustain fixed costs and try to enter the public market by participating to tenders - increase the likelihood of unsubsidized entry tomorrow by stronger to be candidates (SME’s that have become large/successful firms) and more competition makes cartels and corruption harder.

But risks are not low
Butrisks are not low …

  • Cost may rise nonetheless.

  • “The immediate difficulty … was the mismatch between the needs of government for specific goods and services and the industry distribution and limited capacity of most MBEs. Most were in the wrong lines of business and lacked, as well, the necessary expertise, working capital, and bonding capacity contractors needed to complete successfully all but the smallest government procurement tasks”. (Bates). Dynamic learning.

    2) “SME preferences tend to proliferate over time and if, once in place, they are immutable”. An empirical question. But South African example seems to underscore the fact that preferences schemes can change and possibly be improved over time, (if competence is there).

    3) No SBA study that verifies whether SMEs helped by the SBA policies on procurement have actually grown, closed or simply stayed put, and this lack of research is quite astonishing as it reduces the accountability of the work of the SBA.

Especially where bad governance rules
Especiallywhere bad governancerules…

  • Fraud. “fake” (small) corporations might be created only for the purpose of being awarded the procurement contract at a higher price. Or else, large companies might redefine their structure to participate as small ones and obtain the advantage (Brazil). A corrupt environment might make this fraud easier.

  • Preferences in the hands of dominant lobby.

Conclusions tentative
Conclusions (tentative)

  • Set-aside and preferencesmightbeoptimalwithcompetences, professionalization and integrity.

  • Set-asides and preferences are riskywithincompetence and disastrouswithsystemiccorruption.

At least import this
At least import this!

These are representativesof the U.S. Small Business Administration in the variouslarge Procurement Agencies.

Functions and Powers:

  • 1. Analyze the procurement strategies and verifyifcontract-bundlingisnecessary and justified

  • 2. Propose alternative solutionsto the contractingofficertofosterSMEspartecipation

  • 3. In case of a failed agreement, escalate the issue in the handsof the Agency Manager.