EFCI promotes good procurement and contracting practices

30th of October 2020
EFCI promotes good procurement and contracting practices

The value of public procurement, from over 250,000 public authorities in the EU, is 14 per cent of European Union GDP, or two trillion Euro a year, according to the European Commission. Public procurement contracts are evidently very important in the economy of most business services sectors, such as cleaning, contract catering and security, which are also often labour-intensive industries.

The European Cleaning and Facility Services Industry (EFCI) strongly engages at all political levels, together with its member organisations, to promote good contracting practices in cleaning and facility services.

EFCI’s thorough work on the topic of public procurement focuses on informing, raising awareness and advocating for public buyers to choose quality services and use strategic procurement to address common goals including social responsibility, employment, environmental protection, public health and other social and environmental considerations. This work is done before the European Institutions (European Commission; Parliament) and other stakeholders (business associations, national and regional players) and often in collaboration with the European Business Services Alliance (EBSA) - of which the EFCI is an active member with its director, Isabel Yglesias, being its vice-chair.

Social Partners for the promotion of quality-based purchase of cleaning services
The fruitful collaboration with UNI Europa (European confederation of trade unions in the services sector) resulted in 2016 in the jointly developed Guide to Selecting Best Value with the financial support of the European Commission. The guide covers all aspects of cleaning services’ tender procedures.

It aims at assisting buyers in their tendering process by highlighting the benefits of choosing quality services and raising awareness about the consequences of selecting lowest bids. Whereas quality of cleaning services is determined by technical merit and professional ability, social aspects include the respect for collective agreements and good employment conditions. The quality and social aspects represent two sides of the same coin.

The Best Value Guide is therefore an advocacy tool but also a technical guide to accompany private and public buyers in their tendering processes. It provides technical advice on how to better design tenders and how to evaluate the relevant criteria, helping to understand how to include and measure quality and social aspects in their procurement process.

To achieve its role as a reference tool for selecting the best value, the guide first acts as an introduction to the concept of ‘best value’ and explains the latest EU public procurement rules. It then outlines social partners’ views on how to use the most economically advantageous tender (‘MEAT’) and quality criteria provided for in the EU legislation in order to refrain from using the price as key indicator for procurement.

Finally the guide breaks down into three key factors - personnel, management and equipment - the determinants of the quality of cleaning services while offering a user friendly Excel tool for buyers to define the quality criteria which are of particular relevance to their needs through a six step procedure.

Contracting practices during Covid-19 crisis

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, many providers of business services – including professional cleaning, private security and food services – have actively helped to contain the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus and played a crucial role in supporting the maintenance of healthcare, business activities and supply chains.

The economic impact of lockdowns on business services was severely aggravated by increasing bad contracting practices both from public and private buyers, including unilaterally scaled-down and cancelled services due to wrongly invoked force majeure clauses. Some examples of good contracting practices were adopted in member states such as Italy and Slovenia. Among others, not suspending or terminating contracts during the lockdowns or, in case of suspension, assuming the labour costs related to the contracts during their suspension.

However, further action is still required in the current phase and lessons need to be learnt from the past. In this regard EBSA members  developed a joint statement calling the European Commission to provide guidance and encourage member states to follow important quality criteria and approaches when buying business services. An exclusive focus on lower pricing often incentivises unfair competition, impacts working conditions, leads to the recruitment of inadequately trained and unqualified staff, and may even contradict collective agreements.

Today, more than ever, such procurement practices can have severe consequences on the safety of workers and put a safe return to economic activity at risk. Business services’ role will continue to be essential in the recovery phase but needs to be supported by quality-based approaches before and during the execution of contracts.

EFCI and EBSA’s road forward in EU public procurement

Our work on public procurement recently led to the organisation of a forward-looking online seminar under the title Public Procurement in the EU: the Road Forward. The event was a unique occasion to present and reflect upon the main issues at stake around the application of the 2014 Public Procurement Package across business services sectors with representatives of the European institutions, specialised lawyers and practitioners from our sectors.

Find more about it on http://servicealliance.eu/



Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited