Think again! Even as an SME, you still have a real chance of winning a public procurement contract. But how? And what do you need to pay attention to? Find out in this article.
The importance of tenders
Public procurement accounts for no less than 14% of European gross domestic product (GDP). And incidentally, the government is a big customer. But only 34% of Belgian public procurement contracts are awarded to SMEs. This figure is well below the average for other European countries. The Belgian and Brussels authorities can therefore do much better, but business owners themselves can also make a greater effort: barely half of business owners participate in public procurement procedures.
In a survey conducted by UNIZO, the main reasons given by business owners are: not knowing about public procurement (24%), not knowing how to get started (22%) or not wanting to get started because of the administrative burden (13%). 14% also state that they cannot sufficiently promote the quality of their products and services.
But contracting authorities also have an interest in encouraging the participation of SMEs. The Public Procurement Foundation has found that over the past 3 years, the lowest number of tenders per "lot" has been announced and that the number of contracts for which only one tender was received has also increased significantly.
Where can i find public procurement contracts?
First of all: not all public procurement contracts are published. Contracts with a threshold value of less than or equal to 139,000 euros (excluding VAT) that are awarded according to the "negotiated procedure without prior publication" in the traditional sectors do not have to be advertised, but the contracting authority must contact three companies and invite them to submit a tender. Contracts with a value of less than 30,000 euros may also be awarded on the basis of a consultation with a number of potential suppliers.
It is therefore important that you register as a potential supplier with the public services that need your services or products. In the Brussels Region, for example, there is the company directory of the Observatory of Reference Prices in Public Procurement. The City of Brussels also invites entrepreneurs to register as potential suppliers.
An overview of all tenders to be published can be found here: https://bosa.belgium.be/en/public-procurement. In addition, there are private companies that, for a fee, will inform you about the public procurement contracts that are relevant to your field of activity.
What do you need to pay attention to as an entrepreneur?
Have you had bad experiences with public tenders and procedures? Do you find that you have to put in too much effort for too few results? Perhaps the following tips and important points could increase your chances of success?
Preparing a tender for a public service differs in several ways from preparing a tender for a private client. The main differences are:
It is therefore advisable to consider the following:
You can find more advice on the following websites:
- There is a legally regulated procedure for awarding the contract, with a longer procedure time in most cases;
- There are strict formal requirements such as the signing of the tender, the submission of the tender, the absence of the right to make reservations by the tenderer, the absence of the possibility to modify the tender, etc.;
- NB: pay attention to the environmental, social and ethical clauses that public authorities include in their contracts. These should, among other things, counter social dumping, encourage fair trade and promote sustainable procurement. Discover more information on the Guide to Sustainable Procurement and on Brussels Environment;
- The object, content and scope of the tender are determined exclusively by the specifications established by the public authority.
- Get started on your tender in time!
- Read the specifications carefully.
- Analyse the procedure to be followed.
- Analyse whether you meet the award criteria.
- Be meticulous: keep track of all the formalities (e.g. submission deadline and submission method). Allow some room for manoeuvre with the tender submission deadline, as tenders that are submitted late are automatically rejected.
- Be complete - check that you have submitted all the documents! Collecting them takes time.
- Make sure that your company information in the CBE is correct and accurate. Don't forget to register your email address too! This makes it easy for contracting authorities to contact you when they are exploring the market or want to write to you about an interesting contract.
- On the UNIZO website, you will find a summary page with tips, but also a collection of practical advice for doing business with the government.
- The UCM also provides a guide. You will find it on this website.
- What are the amounts of the European and Belgian thresholds from 1 January 2020? Can you negotiate? Who should sign? Answers to 10 frequently asked questions can be found on the BECI website.
- On the Brussels Environment website, you can subscribe to the newsletter on sustainable public procurement and find the relevant legislation, etc.