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Looking at public procurement data in Europe in high-definition

Starting October, EU member states will have to start sending data on all of their public procurement to the EU using a common, standardized format – eForms. If done well, this can provide the basis for a powerful digitally-driven procurement data architecture that enables competition, efficiency, public oversight, and stimulates innovation. 

At OCP, we’ve been long supporting governments in standardizing and publishing public procurement data openly through the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). While some EU countries and cities have started publishing OCDS data – there is still a long way to go across the EU. That’s why we’ve been excited by the introduction of eForms across the EU.

In this post, we want to provide a quick overview how the OCDS and eForms build on each other, the additional benefits unlocked by publishing eForms and OCDS, and the kind of innovation standardized open data can bring to public procurement. 

Streamlining procurement data across the EU: The use case for standardized data

The EU Public Procurement Directives mandate the publication of some procurement information. This means that every country in the EU has to make available certain categories of information, including for example, tender notices, and publish them via Tenders Electronic Daily—an online portal for public procurement notices from across the EU. 

eForms were established under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1780. The standard forms to be used for the publication of procurement notices are set out in the annex to this regulation

Academic research shows that publishing this information as open data boosts competition and access to procurement markets. This is a critical issue in the EU that is suffering from high levels of single-bid tendering, which are more expensive and corruption prone. The research shows that publishing information as structured and standardized open data can help to:

A broader scope: the added benefit of publishing OCDS in addition to eForms

While eForms will underpin the architecture of procurement data across the EU, the OCDS can help make that information even more accessible through a globally recognized procurement data publication standard and enrich the scope of useful information published. OCDS has been designed to publish procurement data across all five procurement stages: planning, tendering, awarding, contracting, and implementation. 

One of the key difficulties for monitors and advocates in the open contracting community is getting access to timely, relevant data presented in a user-friendly and accessible format.

The key innovation in OCDS – compared with eForms – is how it merges and streamlines information, making it easier to search and more accessible to the public. For example, eForms splits the information about a procedure across notices – following the notice-based system prescribed by law. OCDS has a mechanism to merge these individual updates about a procedure into a single record under a unique contracting process ID, so that there is a single source of the truth on the status of a procedure. This means a more unified overview and less disjointed data points. 

Publishing data collected through eForms in the OCDS format allows a user to integrate  a change history and assemble complete contracting records from the different EU forms by different agencies and countries. OCDS is designed to cover the procurement concepts that users care about the most, and that have the most potential to create positive benefits, including competition, value for money, and a level playing field.

Complementing eForms – not competing with each other

Importantly, OCDS builds on eForms to expand their publication and accessibility. eForms have been designed primarily for sharing of tendering and contracting information across the EU in the TED database. 

The new OCDS for eForms profile builds on, and incorporates, the eForms model. It is designed to provide specific guidance so that procurement entities can join up, analyze and publish in a user-friendly way the information they collect using eForms. 

Find out more about the Open Contracting Data Standard for eForms and get in touch.

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