The first meeting of the EU network of first instance review bodies on 6 March 2017 discussed ways to make the work of these bodies more efficient. At first instance review bodies, companies can challenge the award of procurement contracts by public authorities.
From April 2016, European public procurement legislation has modernised the way EU public authorities spend a large part of the annual €1.9 trillion that goes into national public procurement budgets. The new legislation has also had an impact on the work of national review bodies which is based on minimum EU standards for review procedures, such as an obligatory standstill period of at least ten days between the award decision and signature of a public contract and the sanction of ineffectiveness for illegal direct awards.
The new network - as foreseen in the Single Market Strategy - was set up in response to a January 2017 evaluation report of the Remedies Directives from 2007. It concluded that the Directives have generally contributed to improving fairness, transparency, openness and efficiency in the EU procurement process. But the evaluation had also stressed that certain shortcomings in the functioning of the Remedies Directives needed to be addressed. For example, the evaluation recommended that a new network be set up to discuss and steer follow-up actions to the evaluation, namely to facilitate exchanges between the members of the network, to promote optimal model solutions, to help identify needs, to pool experience and expertise, and to develop different support activities. The network would also:
- Set up a Remedies Scoreboard to promote the collection of data on review cases in a structured manner and achieve greater transparency on the operation of review systems. The first edition should be published in 2018 based on indicators developed in cooperation with EU countries.
- Discuss guidance documents to ease the practical implementation of the Remedies Directives.
Commission speakers underlined that the remedy system proves that EU legislation can guarantee the fair access of enterprises from all EU countries to participate in public tender procedures. Preserving national specificities and legal differences, remedies bodies and courts are the most important contributors to the effectiveness of EU public procurement law. They ensure that contracts go to the company which has made the best offer.
The first meeting of the network brought together delegates from 24 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland. The network will meet twice a year with the next meeting scheduled for September 2017.
15 EU countries have set up first instance public procurement remedies bodies. In the remaining countries, an existing judicial review body is responsible for the review of procurement procedures. At these bodies, companies can challenge the award of procurement contracts by public authorities. In addition to the obligatory standstill and the sanction of ineffectiveness for illegal direct awards, the Remedies Directives oblige procurement authorities to explain the reasons for their decisions and why other bidders were rejected.