The 2004 Directive on Public Procurement maintained that social services, as an economic activity, fell under the scope of competition and internal market rules. Even though there is no obligation for public authorities to externalise the provision of social services of general interest and to follow public procurement procedures, social care services have been increasingly put up for tender in recent years across the EU, which has had considerable implications for social and health services in general and for services for people with disabilities in particular. In some case priority was given to the cheaper proposal, which has an impact on the quality, accessibility and affordability of the social services provided.
In December 2013, the European Parliament voted on a proposal of Directive on Public Procurement, following a proposition by the Commission in 2011. The new proposal of Directive on Public Procurement acknowledges the specificities of social services as general interest services, provides simplified and more flexible rules and procedures and substitutes the lowest price criteria with the MEAT (Most Advantageous Economic Tender).
However, some articles are opened to interpretations, and it is not clear how far will the new directive will ensure that social services are awarded according to quality criteria and not only on cost basis. A lot will depend on how member states are going to transpose the directive.
- Public Procurement in the EU (2009 newsletter) analyses the impact of the 2004 directive on services for persons with disabilites
- Policy paper on new public procurement directive (November 2013)
- At the European Parliament: The New Public Procurement Directive. A step forward for the quality and sustainability of SSGI? (November 2013)