The art of choosing

Governments play a key role in the organisation of many tasks and services which are – directly or indirectly – crucial for the lives of citizens. In the European Union, no rule requires (national) public authorities to externalise the performance of services to the free and competitive market. National authorities always retain the prerogative to decide to perform services their selves or to externalise them; in the last case public procurement law applies. The decision to self-provide or externalise is made to a considerably different extent from state to state, depending on their different traditions and development levels with regard to state intervention. The latter clarifies why the economic size of the market for public procurement varies from 15% of the GDP in developed countries (in the EU 15-20%) to more than 75% in developing countries. These data show the global impact public procurement has in designing our societies. This stresses the importance of just, sustainable and open procedures to effectively, efficiently and lawfully distribute tax-payer’s funded public contracts (i), limited authorisation schemes (ii) and to sale in an effective, efficient and lawful way government properties (iii).

A better understanding of the reasons why well-drafted public procurement procedures are essential for open societies begins at the heart of the public procurement process. Such a competitive process aims at shaping and defining the needs in society (or of the government). As soon as those needs are specified, it becomes about making choices between all existing possibilities and then about evaluating those possibilities. This perspective needs a new conceptualisation of public procurement as an (objective) method to make efficient and legally correct choices (procurement as the art of choosing). Insights from the legal and the economic disciplines particularly determine how public procurement procedures should be set up. In addition, insights from other disciplines show that making the right choice depends on many other variables, such as culture, language, politics, space and time, history. In the context of the Institutions for Open Societies-Platform The Transactional State as an Institution for Good which was founded in 2022, the role of these other variables in public procurement will be researched within UUCePP as well.

Sub-themes and specific projects