Social responsibility in public procurement – a debate in the Office of the Commisioner for Human Rights

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The Commissioner’s Office organised a conference on social clauses in public procurement on June 29th, 2017.

Adam Bodnar shared his experiences from his trips across Poland, during which he used goods and services provided by social enterprises, such as catering or hotels.

Will public authorities support their development?

Ways to remedy the situation

After meeting with representatives of the sector Bodnar thinks that the role of the state should not be limited to waiting for the emergence of social economy champians – instead it should use public procurement as to tool in helping them to grow.

Why? According to him there is a need to support initiatives that may not be as competitive as purely commercial actors. Work is the prerequirement to being independent, so people at risk of social exclusion (homeless, long-term unemplyed, youth or refugees) need such support.

Public procurement does not help them too often. The Commissioner cited the results of our Institute’s research, according to which just 3% tenders that were checked by us were reserved to supporting companies hiring people from such groups. Taking in account the fact that we have 35 thousand public authorities active in procurement (of which 15-16 thousand make regular tenders) this seems far too insufficient.

Bodnar also took note in the fact that while legal possibilities in this field that would strengten the social economy sector exist their usage requires changes in mentality of public authorities. Their actions should be flexible and allow them to try to solve social problems.

The activities of the Public Procurement Office

A view from the PPO was presented by its vice-chair, Hubert Nowak. He noted the fact that since 2010 the legal role of social clauses evolved and they are slowly starting to be not voluntary, but obligatory.

While their usage still remains limited according to Nowak we always should remember about those public authorities, that were promoting them for years. He also noted the three pillars of PPO activities aiming at promoting social clauses:

  • art. 29 ust. 3A ustawy Pzp – the requirement for stable employment was positively affected by the joint declaration of PPO and GIODO (General Personal Data Protection Inspectorate) regarding ways to control its implementation. The Office declared promoting best practices in this field;
  • organising conferences, discussions and panels;
  • controlling the usage of social clauses (PPO prepares a report on the matter).

Monika Brzychcy from the Central Statistical Office of Poland (GUS) informed about organising the first event of the office prepared under the banner of a sustainable, socially resposible public meeting. Our Institute prepared a special guide for preparing such an event.