Interview with Elisabetta Manunza in Deal! – trade magazine for buyers

In the December 2022 issue of the trade journal of Nevi (knowledge network for procurement, contract and supply management), there is an interview with Elisabetta Manunza, Professor of European and International Procurement Law at the Utrecht University Centre for Public Procurement (UUCePP). In it, she once again makes the case for improvements in the public procurement market, which in terms of size (in European countries) accounts for some 14 to 20 per cent of GDP.  When she returned to the Netherlands from Italy at the beginning of this century, she noticed that in our country European procurement directives were seen as a closed system. "According to that prevailing view, it was not an option, for example, to exclude tenderers who had been found guilty of corruption. In 2001, I showed in my dissertation that this perception was wrong."

"Using a systemic method, partly based on how the European Court interprets the law, I showed that on this point (as well), there is indeed room for national policy," Manunza says. Translated to current times, this means that there is therefore also leeway to exclude certain bidders for reasons of (national) security. "Some governments unfortunately think they are obliged, when tendering for example for CCTV cameras, to go with a supplier from China,  because price after all is an important criterion. At UUCePP, we are conducting a larger study and we have already shown that there are indeed opportunities for exclusion." 

Manunza stresses that the EU is a community of values, whose aim, in accordance with Article 3 of the EU Treaty, is to promote the peace, values and well-being of its peoples. "The single market, competition and procurement are nothing more than means to serve those higher ends. The constitutional side of our procurement law has been far too much in the background [...] I think it is time to look radically differently at the economy and radically differently at the cost aspect: it is not about the price of 'a product' but about the price of our freedom, democracy, rule of law. What immediately strikes me when I am working outside the EU is that the more developed procurement law is in countries, the better the rule of law is in those countries. The reverse is unfortunately also true."

Public buyers should be much more aware that society is a third stakeholder – one that does not have a procedural place in tenders. The perspective should be focused on that.

According to Manzunza, we should not lose sight of this greater good – the EU as a community of values. "You then look not at the letter, but at the spirit of the law and its place in the bigger legal picture: why did we ever introduce these directives in the first place? Why do we have a single market? What is the purpose of competition?" Instead of (even more) competition on price, it is therefore important to also allow differently motivated players, such as social enterprises, with goals other than profit maximisation to compete for public contracts. "Public buyers should be much more aware that society is a third stakeholder, one that does not have a procedural place in tenders. The perspective should be focused on that."

You cab read the full interview here (in Dutch)

Elisabetta Manunza in Deal (pdf)