A free hand or a free market? How competitive is public procurement in Europe? Part one of a three part series

In this series of articles, we will explore how competitive the overall public procurement tendering process is for European countries. The most value for money in public procurement is linked to a competitive tendering process. This means encouraging multiple bidders to present offers. There are many ways to do this, all of which have a demonstrable effect on value for money of a purchase. Data was extracted from Tenders Electronic Daily or TED, one of the many data sources we use for tenders and contracts data. We looked at data over the past three financial years (FY), counted as between 1st April and 31st March.

This first part of a three part series explores the average response time for tenders. There needs to be enough time for any bidder to submit a suitable response. This encourages more than just the incumbent supplier to bid. Failure to do so at best makes the process uncompetitive and at worst makes the process collusive.

Average response time for tenders (3 FY average)

The top five countries who provide the most time for bidders to respond are the Netherlands, Denmark, Serbia, the UK and Sweden. 

All five countries have seen improvements over the past three financial years, that is to say the time for response is increasing. Meanwhile, the TED average stands at 40 days and is also improving. The top three: the Netherlands, Denmark and Serbia, are all significantly ahead of average at 77, 61, and 50 days respectively.

The averages for the top 5 are somewhat close to the TED average suggesting that the other side of the average provides between 35 and 40 days. The data generally supports this with only Malta, the lowest, falling outside of that window. 


Areas of improvement

When we look at the bottom five, 3 have seen response times getting shorter and therefore worse over the past three years. By contrast the top 5 has seen double digit percentage improvement. There is grounds for optimism however. The lowest of the TED European countries, Malta, gives an average of 31 days to respond. This in itself is not generally an unreasonable period of time to respond to a call to tender. 

European countries on average provide at least a month to respond to tenders which is generally sufficient for all but the largest contracts. In the next part of the series, we’ll be looking at tenders with an abnormally short description and title. A lack of data in description and title is another key indicator of uncompetitive tenders.

You can find out more about our research at https://www.spendnetwork.com or look at our data at https://openopps.com.

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