In many cases, government organizations are required to use tender procedures when procuring products and services. Unfortunately, the outcomes of such tender procedures are not always fair for the government organization or for the companies involved. For example, companies may contact each other beforehand in order to rig their bids. Also, competition in the tender procedure can sometimes be restricted unintentionally, for example because of the size of the contract or the requirements that the contracting authority has set. As a consequence, the government is forced to spend more taxpayers’ money than if the tender procedure had gone well.
ACM is attentive to indications about unfair competition in government tenders. If discovered, ACM can then examine what exactly is the situation, and is able to fine the companies and individuals involved if they have violated competition rules. ACM has tips for government organizations to prevent collusion among bidders as much as possible. With these tips, more bidders will get a fair chance, and government organizations are able to get the best possible outcome from their tender procedure.
Collaboration with PIANOo
Contracting authorities could be able to mobilize more competitors if they paid more attention to the possible effects on competition when determining the requirements of their tender procedures. ACM works together with PIANOo, the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre, to give advice to contracting authorities. PIANOo helps contracting authorities professionalize their procurement processes by giving advice, providing tools, and practical tips.
Results of the online consultation
For six weeks, ACM put five provocative statements and questions online. Government buyers in particular left comments. In addition, ACM received indications about cartel activities in tender procedures in various sectors. ACM takes such indications very seriously, and calls on contracting authorities to keep reporting their suspicions to ACM. However, ACM cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
Judging from the comments, it appears that buyers have a need for market knowledge in order to be able to organize their tender procedure well. For example, they seek information about what parties are active in a certain market, and how comparable tender procedures went. Because of its investigations when assessing mergers and other concentrations, ACM has public information about many sectors. ACM will explore how contracting authorities can benefit from this market knowledge.
The question about how buyers can recognize potential cartels in government tenders drew little response. That is why ACM will pay several contracting authorities a visit to see whether more information about this topic is needed.