Half of the procurements with only one bidder, fifth without bids

Since July 1 last year, when the new law came into force, 9,655 public calls have been announced on the Public Procurement Portal and almost 11,000 electronic procurement procedures have been initiated. 11,400 contracts were concluded, but 3,420 procedures were suspended. For 70% of suspensions, it is stated that no bids were received, which speaks of insufficient interest from businesses, largely due to the low level of trust of bidders in the system, but also the lack of knowledge.

Developed European countries have a high share of procurement in GDP - Switzerland 25%, the Netherlands 20%, Sweden 16.5% - while in Serbia this percentage is just over 8%, which speaks of the limited possibilities to achieve development goals and strengthen the economy through public procurement. Therefore, one of the key goals of the project "Effective public procurement in the service of economic growth" is to strengthen the competitiveness, especially of small and medium enterprises, through the development and implementation of fair, efficient and transparent procurement.

The value of procurement in Serbia is growing every year, and in 2019 it exceeded 440 billion dinars. The challenge is the fact that the average number of bidders for the last 15 years has dropped from 8.5 to only 2.5, while, according to the analysis of the Association "Bidders of Serbia", in 55% of cases only one bid was received.

- Besides, 90% of procurements are conducted according to the criterion of the lowest offered price, i.e. the cheapest products and services are being purchased, and only 10% by applying the criterion of the most economically favorable offer. According to the Corruption Perception Index, in 2020, Serbia is ranked 94th out of 180 countries with 38 out of 100 points, which indicates that our country would have to deal with the challenge of corruption and irregularities in procurement, in order to restore the trust of the economy. Our goal is to improve these indicators through a project we are implementing with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), primarily by improving procurement efficiency and greater use of price-quality ratio in the evaluation of bids, reducing the room for corruption and contributing to the recovery from the effects of the pandemic through more efficient public spending - says the Good Governance Director at NALED, Ana Ilić.

According to her, the participation of a larger number of bidders leads to the formation of more favorable prices for the appropriate quality, which allows the state to better use taxpayers' money, and that is especially important in repairing the consequences caused by COVID 19. Also, the positive effects that can be achieved in terms of environmental protection and social inclusion through careful definition of bid evaluation criteria are not negligible. "Our goal is that by 2023, the criterion of the most economically favorable bid is represented in 30% of procedures, and that the average number of bidders will be raised to 3.5," adds Ilić.

The focus of the project will be on strengthening the capacity of bidders and buyers in procurement procedures, for the application of regulations and the implementation of procedures. Emphasis will also be placed on increasing the participation of the so-called green procurement in order to better protect the environment, as well as socially inclusive procurement that includes vulnerable and marginalized categories of the population.

Although transparency and procedures have been significantly improved with the introduction of the new Public Procurement Portal, the project envisages support for its further development, as well as the simplification of the Register of Bidders. Also, it is planned to strengthen the capacity of institutions that control and decide on the protection of rights in procurement procedures, but also the civil sector.

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