Brussels, 30 September 2010
Public procurement: Commission refers Germany to Court to ensure fair access to architectural services in Niedernhausen
The European Commission has decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU over the direct award of a public contract for renovation services in the municipality of Niedernhausen. The Commission is concerned that Germany has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU public procurement rules. These rules are there to ensure fair competition for public contracts, thereby creating more business opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. If the rules are not respected, there is a risk of a closed market and waste of public money. The Commission sent a reasoned opinion – the second stage of the infringement procedure - to Germany in January 2010, requesting the German authorities to comply with EU law (see IP/10/78). As the reply provided was not satisfactory, the Commission has now decided to take the case to the Court of Justice.
What is the aim of the EU rules in question?
Public procurement is about how public authorities spend public money. It covers purchases of everything from coffee to computer systems, waste water plants, ship building or consulting services. Total public procurement in the EU is estimated at about 17% of the Union’s GDP. The open and transparent tendering procedures required under EU public procurement rules mean more competition, stronger safeguards against corruption, and better service and value for money for taxpayers.
How is Germany not respecting these rules?
In 2006, the municipality of Niedernhausen decided to renovate its multi-purpose hall and to entrust a local architect with the planning services for the renovation. The renovation works were due to be spread over three years and consist of several construction phases. The German authorities considered that the planning services for every construction phase would each be a separate public service contract. As a result, each contract would have a value below the thresholds for EU-wide tenders as laid out in the EU public procurement directives. However, the Commission considers that the planning for the renovation of the multi-purpose hall, carried out by one single architect, is one single public service contract. This single service contract has a value above the thresholds of the EU public procurement Directives. It should thus have been awarded in a formal tender procedure with European-wide publication of a tender notice, as required by the rules of the applicable EU public procurement Directive, 2004/18/EC.
How are citizens and businesses suffering as a result?
By awarding the architect's services in question without the required EU-wide tender procedure, the German authorities restricted the access of other companies to this public contract, thus leading to a possible waste of taxpayers' money.
Latest information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States:
For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/10/457.