Social aspects in public procurement – joint conference of the Public Procurement Office and the Chancellry of the Prime Minister

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The debate was based on the results of monitoring of social clauses usage in governmental departments in 2016, commenced by the PPO.

On Friday, October 20th, a discussion on public procurement in governmental ministries and institions took place in the Chancellry of the Prime Minister.

Its head, Beata Kempa, kicked off the discussion by taking notice to the fact that in March 2017 the government passed a revised version of the recommendation regarding using social clauses. This version builds up on the previous one, passed by the government of Ewa Kopacz in 2015.

One of the basic points included in the document is a requirement to prepare analysis regarding checking the possibilities of incorporating social considerations in the tenders during prepairing yearly procurement plans and later auditing the results.

In our opinion this practice is fit for purpouse and therefore should also include environmental clauses and not be limited to governmental authorities. There is no reason for such a requirement to be obligatory also to local authorities and universities.

For the Willing or for All?

An important question arises after reading the PPO report and participating in the discussion in the Chancellry – namely the issue of wheather or not the voluntary character of social and environmental clauses is the best way to broaden their usage.

One example can be a good example here. After changes in the Public Procurement Law (Pzp) in 2016 the reqirement to employ people by companies executing the tenders became largely obligatory. It resulted in an almost threefold increase in social clauses usage in governmental authorities.

Although other two categories of social clauses present in the Polish law (employment of people from groups at risk of social exclusion and restrictet procurement) have also seen a rise they are being used much more rarely.

Problems with the Social Economy

Restricted clauses were used just in 66 amongst 1,571 tenders in which social clauses occured – even despite the fact that the rules regarding entities allowed to participate in them have been liberalised (they need to employ at least 30% of people with disabilities while before the changes the threshold was set at 50%).

Their value was just above 19.5 million PLN, which is a very small number compared to the overall value of government tenders in 2016 (ove 2.1 billion PLN).

The numers show how big is the challenge of promoting goods and services created in the social economy sector – and it will stay as such in the coming years.

Insufficient usage of public procurement to promote them, ie. by more widely using social clauses, hinders their growth, much was clearly shown in the latest report of the European Economic and Social Council. According to the data presented in the document a large decline in employment in the sector has been observed in recent years in Poland.

Looking Forward

Luckily some public institutions from the government sector shown some good practices that would be possible to replicate – one of the tenders (supplying miliatry uniforms) was priced at 5.8 million PLN.

The Office of the Voivode in Poznań showcased their promotion of such ecological standards like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SA 8000 in their tenders.

Such an example shows that public institutions already can use the Public Procurement Law for the betterment of the natural environment. It would be a step for the better if the Chancellry of the Prime Minister helped to promote such a trend, as well as to strenghten the voice of the social economy sector in duscussion on the future of public procurement in Poland.

After the recent discussion, in which the main actors in the field seem to understand the importance ofpublic tenders in promoting decent working conditions as well as social inclusion one can be a (cautious) optimist.

Grzegorz Piskalski