The Association of Telecommunications Operators, Apritel, is concerned with the frequency with which public procurement procedures are challenged. In a meeting with the press, the president of the association considered that the frequency with which these situations occur created a «focus of inefficiency for the State and for operators», defended João Couto.
The official believes that the frequent use of operators to this instrument – what he sees as legitimate – may mean a need to review procedures and assess the need to maintain all the administrative and legal requirements that currently support this type of procedure.
João Couto believes that the excessive complexity of the rules applied justifies the constant recourse to contest contests, which, at the outset, are already long procedures in duration and, in this way, extend even more in time.
It should be noted that, according to data from the association itself collected in 2008, public tender procedures took an average of 120 days.
ANCP’s concerns were revealed during a presentation of the conclusions of a study prepared by KPMG on the practices of purchasing telecommunications services by the Central Public Administration, which served as a basis for the elaboration of a set of suggestions that the Association presented last summer to the Government and now publicly reveals.
The list includes recommendations such as the structuring of tenders by lots of services and geographies, an aspect that Apritel has already defended on several occasions and which it reiterates, considering that, more than an option, telecommunications services should be an option. rule that will allow more competition and the widening of the range of proposals available to the State when it goes to the market to buy this type of services. In this respect, he gives the example of the renewal of the framework agreement for fixed, on-going communications, where this is a possibility but not a requirement.
Based on the results of the study that compared public procurement practices in five more countries (United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany and Denmark), the range of suggestions prepared by Apritel also underlines the importance of improving and adapting the information provided in the specifications and avoid technical specifications – in the proposal requirements – that deviate from the service standards traditionally offered by the market.
The document lists suggestions at various levels, including supervision, transparency, training and organization of processes. An important part of the recommendations that can also be found in this range are related to strategic and organizational issues.
The study showed, and Apritel followed the guidance, that the State’s purchasing structure must equip itself with technical skills to be able to support the ministries in defining needs and purchasing services in specific areas such as telecommunications and also strengthening the mechanisms of monitoring tender procedures and results at various levels. In this field, and as one of the recommendations that aim to imply greater transparency in the processes, it is suggested the elaboration of reports on expenses in electronic communications and respective shares of operators. Information that should be made public to allow a more accurate picture of communications in the public sector, following what is already done in countries like Spain.
Apritel officials again referred to the fact that many procurement procedures continue to be carried out without public tender, either by direct award, or by inertia, automatically extending contracts that reach the legal limit of three years. The situation is considered worrying and not favorable to savings by the State, which fails to ask the market, in a broad sense, for the best proposals to serve its needs.
Apritel’s management acknowledges, however, that over the past year, some important flaws in terms of public procurement and the transparency of processes have been corrected, although it argues that there is still a long way to go.