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EC plans could open up ICT procurement for SMEs

Kathleen Hall

Technology start-ups and SMEs could benefit from European Commission (EC) plans to improve SME procurement.

The EC has said it was looking to modernise the rules, tools and methods for public sector procurement by opening a consultation process.

Public procurement accounts for roughly 17% of the EU's GDP, but SMEs are estimated to secure just one-third of the total contract value.

Michel Barnier, commissioner, said, "Access of smaller companies to procurement markets, reducing red tape, or promoting European cross-border procurement will be under the spotlight during the consultation."

But David Chan, director at the centre for information leadership at City University London, said the problem lies in the UK government's interpretation of the EU rules when awarding ICT contracts, rather than the legislation itself. "It's the culture rather than the rules. Holland, for example, uses more SMEs in public sector procurement than the UK."

Rigid interpretation of regulations mean that the larger players are better placed to follow the costly compliance process, he said.

Last year the government announced its intention to increase SME procurement to 25% of government contracts, of which it expected a contribution from small ICT businesses.


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