What is the European Single Procurement Document? (ESPD)
The new EU Procurement Directives made provision for the introduction of an ESPD which is intended by the European Commission to remove some of the barriers to participation in public procurement, especially for SMEs.
The ESPD is a self-declaration of a potential supplier’s' financial status, abilities and suitability for a public procurement procedure. It mainly serves as preliminary evidence of fulfilment of the conditions required in a public procurement procedure.
Bidders will no longer have to provide full documentary evidence and different forms previously used in EU procurement, which means a significant simplification of the tendering process.
The ESPD will replace the requirement for suppliers to provide up-front evidence or certificates by allowing them to self-declare that they meet the relevant selection and exclusion criteria. Bidders may be asked to provide proof of this at a later stage and the winning bidder will usually have to provide proof before contract award.
How will the new process work?
Buyers will set out their selection and exclusion criteria, including any minimum standards and methods for short-listing in their contract notice. They will then issue an ESPD request and make it available for anyone interested in bidding for the contract.
Bidders will complete and submit their ESPD response to the buyer, who will assess the suitability of all bids against the criteria they have selected.
What about Selection Questionnaires?
The ESPD will offer an alternative to the selection questionnaire, and should make the process of bidding for a public contract easier. Its purpose is to remove some of the barriers to participation in public procurement, particularly for SMEs who often don’t have the resources (time/money) to complete complex tender documents.
The Selection Questionnaire method was popular because buyers tended to ask questions in the same, or similar, ways. The ESPD will actually build upon this as the same standard form is now being used across Europe.
Will a new ESPD have to be submitted for every tender procedure?
The same question set will be used across the EU, so a bidder will be able to re-use a form which was previously submitted for a separate competition, so long as the information is still up-to-date.
However, every time a supplier submits a bid, an ESPD request will have to be submitted as well. It will be in the supplier’s interest to configure each ESPD to suit the requirements of that individual procurement exercise.
How Will the ESPD be checked for accuracy?
By law, a winning bidder has to submit all of the required certificates and documentation, before they are awarded a contract. Bidders can be asked to submit their evidence at any point in the procurement process if this is necessary to ensure that the process is carried out properly.
If a bidder is found to have misrepresented itself, a couple of things can happen, depending on the nature of the misrepresentation:
- If a bidder is in breach of one of the areas which is a mandatory ground for exclusion, or if it does not meet one of the minimum selection criteria, then that bidder must be excluded from the competition. Depending on the nature and stage of the competition, that may mean either that it continues without that particular bidder, or the competition should be re-run without that bidder’s tender.
- If it emerges that a business is in breach of an area which is a discretionary ground for exclusion, then the decision about whether or not to exclude that bidder will be up to the buying authority. This decision must be in line with the EU Treaty Principles of transparency, proportionality, equality of treatment and non-discrimination.
- If the issue is more administrative in nature (e.g. mistakes in providing the documentation), then the authority will have the option of inviting the bidder to make amendments to, or clarify the documentation provided.
Will the ESPD affect sub-contractors?
If a bidder wishes to sub-contract part of a contract, and relies entirely on the sub-contractor in order to fulfil the selection criteria, a separate ESPD must be submitted on behalf of the sub-contractor.
The buying authority may choose to request a separate ESPD from any other sub-contractor, in order to verify whether or not there are grounds for excluding it. If a sub-contractor is in a situation which would lead to its mandatory exclusion, the bidder will be required to replace that sub-contractor. It’s really important the suppliers plan for this scenario early in the process by engaging with sub-contractors and obtaining information early on during the procurement process.
ESPD or Selection Questionnaire?
There may be some confusion during the transition period from the Standard PQQ to the Selection Questionnaire to the ESPD. As of 26th September 2016 suppliers should only be receiving (for the most part) the Selection Questionnaire but they are entitled to submit an ESPD if they already have one.