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Improving access to public procurements for SMEs is a major objective of the 2012 Public Procurement Act. Turnover requirements may no longer be imposed, any clustering must be justified, contracts must – as far as possible – be divided into lots, and proportionate requirements should be set.
The Proportionality Guide contains many regulations and recommendations on how to implement these concepts, which can be difficult to pin down. Contracting authorities must also endeavour to reduce administrative burdens. All these rules and regulations are intended to simplify access to public contracts.
And yet, even when all the requirements of the 2012 Public Procurement Act and the Proportionality Guide are met, this does not always automatically result in greater SME participation in public procurement. Contracting authorities often have to take proactive steps to acquaint SMEs with the potential of public procurement.
Opportunities to involve SMEs in contracts
- Get to know the market. Find out whether SMEs are active in the specific market in which you want to award a public contract.
- Hold regular meetings with representatives of SMEs in your region/local authority area, preferably by category, but otherwise at the level of the Chamber of Commerce.
- Provide SMEs and self-employed individuals with information about procurement.
- Prior to a public procurement, discuss the MEAT criteria with SMEs.
- Inform SMEs about the option of forming a group or consortium. Give full details of the steps you have already taken to achieve SME-friendly procurement.
- Consider SMEs (including local SMEs) when drafting objective criteria for the selection of a company or companies in a private procurement.
- Avoid the use of jargon in the tender documents and, if possible, limit the administrative burdens involved.
- Make it standard procedure to include details of what action has specifically been taken for SMEs in tender documents.
- Follow the example set by the Municipality of The Hague by developing and using a public procurement passport.
- In your organisation's Annual Report, indicate what percentage of the contracts were awarded to SMEs.
- Create a public procurement calendar for all of the contracts that you are going to put out to tender, and make sure that SMEs have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with this.
- Ask the main contractor what percentage of the subcontracting is being awarded to SMEs.
- Consider paying subcontractors directly.
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