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A free hand or a free market? How competitive is public procurement in Europe? Part three of a three part series

This article is the last of a three part series on competitive tendering in public procurement in Europe. We have already learned that European tendering is positive in some aspects (amount of time given to respond) and less positive in others (provision of information to bidders). In this article, we’ll be looking at the number of tenders that received single bids. A single bid tender suggests that only one supplier had the resources, capabilities and pricing to do the job. This supplier is typically the incumbent but could be any other supplier a buyer prefers. 

Single bid tenders is different to the other metrics. The other metrics pertain to the early stages of tender publishing. Therefore they serve more as red flags of potential uncompetitiveness. This metric however relates to tendering after submissions. Therefore this metric is outcome based and indicative of how healthy the overall processes and systems of tendering are in a country. 

In the same vein as earlier analyses, we extracted data from Tenders Electronic Daily or TED, one of the many data sources we use for tenders and contracts data. We looked at data over the past three financial years (FY), counted as between 1st April and 31st March.

Proportion of single bid tenders (3 FY average)

When tenders attract only a single bid, it suggests that the process is more favourable to a limited pool of suppliers. In many instances this is a natural process but on a larger scale, this can affect competitiveness within a market. We therefore looked at single bid tenders for countries on TED, starting with the best five:

The top performers

There are recurring names in this list. Ireland and Sweden featured in the top five in earlier analyses. Macedonia had a near 50% publishing rate of short description tender publishing. 3 out of 5 of this list are at 10% or nearly at 10% when it comes to single bid tenders which seems high. All are seeing upward trends in single bid tendering. 

Areas of concern

The bottom five’s picture is starker: all had significant rates of single bid tendering. At the minimum, 3 out of 10 tenders in these countries are single bid tenders. For three countries, the rate is four out of 10. Moreover, although Poland and Croatia improved, the rest saw increased rates. 

Of particular concern is the countries in the middle. The average single tender rate is 1 in 4, a trend that has been getting worse over the past 3 years. As we can infer from the first table, the majority of countries have over 10% single bid tenders. This suggests a lack of competitiveness in European tendering that warrants further investigation. The issue is better in some countries, such as Ireland, Norway, Sweden that repeatedly appear in the top five or top ten. But competitiveness in tendering can be improved.

You can find out more about our research at https://www.spendnetwork.com or look at our data at https://openopps.com.

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