A Duty to ‘Save’ Seemingly Non-Compliant Tenders for Public Contracts? -- New SSRN paper


I have published a short paper commenting on the transposition of Article 56(3) of Directive 2014/24/EU  through the 2017 reform version of Article 72 of the Portuguese Code of Public Contracts. I think this is an interesting case study on some of the difficulties that the new provision on the contracting authority's power to seek clarifications can pose in practice--and maybe anticipates some of the future challenges in the development of the Slovensko-Manova-Archus and Gama case law. The abstract of the paper is as follows:

This paper provides a critical assessment of the rules regarding the clarification, supplementation and correction of tenders in procedures for the award of public contracts regulated by the EU 2014 Public Procurement Package. It does so through a detailed assessment of the transposition of Article 56(3) of Directive 2014/24/EU by means of the post-2017 reform version of Article 72 of the Portuguese Code of Public Contracts. The paper concentrates on four main issues: the existence of a mere discretionary power or a positive duty to seek clarifications, corrections or supplementations of tenders and their accompanying documentation; the constraints imposed on such power or duty; the desirability of unilateral tender corrections by the contracting authority; and the transparency given to the correction, supplementation or clarification of tenders. The paper assesses each of these issues against the backdrop of the existing case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, as well as with a functional approach to the operationalisation of the Portuguese rules on correction, supplementation and clarification of tenders for public contracts.

The paper is freely downloadable from SSRN: A Sanchez-Graells, 'A Duty to "Save" Seemingly Non-Compliant Tenders for Public Contracts? - Comments on Art 72 of the 2017 Portuguese Code of Public Contracts' (2018) 2 Revista de Direito Administrativo 59-68.

Current Proposals on Exclusion, Qualitative Selection and Shortlisting in EU Public Procurement

I have just uploaded on SSRN a short new paper, which provides some initial thoughts on the new rules on exclusion, qualitative selection and short-listing in the 2011 proposal for a new public sector procurement Directive, as amended by the 30 November 2012 Compromise Text published by the Council. The assessment is based on a comparison with the equivalent rules under current Directive 2004/18/EC, as well as on the implementation difficulties that I envisage.

In the paper, I reach the following conclusions:
As this brief overview of the novelties and changes proposed by the Compromise Text on the rules concerning exclusion, qualitative selection and short-listing has shown, the Commission has presented (and the Council is willing to allow for) reform proposals that aim to generate some simplification and flexibilisation of the current rules. The Compromise Text has also tried to clarify and improve the drafting of the current Directives and to consolidate requirements and avoid duplication where possible.
The search for flexibility and simplification is particularly clear concerning the rules that aim to make exclusion of economic operators a dynamic activity (§2.2), that increase the scope and power for contracting authorities to seek clarifications and source additional information from tenderers (§2.4), that allow for an evaluation of the effectiveness of self-cleaning measures adopted by economic operators that should otherwise be excluded (§3.3), or that allow for a ‘certificate-less’ qualitative selection of candidates, subject to an ex post verification of the self-declarations submitted (§4.5). However, such flexibility does not come without risks and contracting authorities must tread lightly if they want to avoid challenges based on potential abuses of their (increased) administrative discretion. Moreover, the extent and weight of the obligations derived from the principle of good administration are expanding and this needs being duly taken into consideration.
There are also clear indications of a clearer integration of public procurement and competition rules (such as the possibility to exclude bid riggers, §3.2) and of the use of public procurement as a lever to ensure compliance with social, labour and environmental rules, in a classic example of pursuit of secondary (or horizontal) considerations in procurement (§2.3). This shows that, despite the search for simplification, the (asymmetrical) integration of public procurement and other economic and non-economic policies by necessity depicts a more complicated scenario that requires further professionalism and capacity building in the Member States, as well as more cooperation between contracting authorities and other competent authorities, such as national competition or environmental agencies.
All in all, in my view, EU public procurement regulation continues becoming more and more sophisticated (and complicated), the Compromise Text does not solve all problems and creates some new and, consequently, public procurement litigation will continue playing a key role in the clarification of the applicable rules.