The Swedish Competition Authority is the supervisory body for public procurement in Sweden. The amount of money spent annually through public procurement is in the billions. If the rules are observed, our tax monies will be used in the best way possible. Through observance of the legislation, there are also other positive effects, such as promotion of competition and decreased corruption.
The Swedish Competition Authority is the supervisory body for public procurement, which means that we review if the laws on public procurement and systems of choice are observed. We also work for efficient public procurement to the benefit of society and the participants on the markets.
Public procurement is a statutory procedure within the public sector which leads to the purchase of goods, services, and public works. In principle, all contracts including economic provisions are encompassed by the procurement rules. If the value of a procurement is below the limit for direct awards, an authority may perform a direct award.
When the rules are observed, tax monies are used in the best way possible
The procurement rules of today are many and sometimes complex. However, we are convinced that when they are observed our tax monies will be used in the best way possible. Observing the rules has several positive effects, beyond a public procurement in accordance with the rule of law. We can see that the rules promote competition on the market, prevent corruption, and ensure efficient usage of tax monies. The procurement rules help guarantee that the taxpayers get the right things at the right price through effective purchasing. At the same time, we achieve social goals, labour policy goals and environmental policy goals. Ultimately, that is what law enforcement is about.
The Swedish Competition Authority’s supervisory efforts
Our supervisory efforts include investigating and deciding if and how contracting authorities are observing the rules on public procurement.
Uniform application of the rules
The goal of our procurement supervision is to provide guidance and incentives for changed behaviour in the areas where this is needed. Therefore, we work for uniform application of the rules, which is a central part of our task. When the procurement legislation does not clearly state the frameworks which the contracting authorities must relate to, we can contribute with clarification.
The basis of our supervision is to ensure that the procurement legislation is observed and that our operations have a clear focus on supervision. Our work with matters relating to procurement fines and supervisory decisions has highlighted the importance of observing the rules. We continually maintain and develop this aspect of our operations.
Supervision as a preventative measure
We see supervision as a continuous preventative effort. If we can prevent the occurrence of a breach, this is more effective than concluding, after the fact, that an erroneous purchase has been made. This is even more valid if many contracting authorities and entities make the majority of procurements in the right way.
In past follow-ups of our work, we have been told that we do not review the entire purchasing operations of contracting authorities, focusing too much on single breaches in operations that are otherwise largely functional. Reflecting on this, we have observed that the supervision concept has, for a long time, been interpreted in a quite narrow manner within our operations. Supervision has largely come to be seen as synonymous with a kind of post facto review and spot check of the actions of authorities. We will therefore to a greater extent let our choice of supervisory method be determined by the nature of each matter and the questions raised thereby.
We work in a dynamic manner and our guiding light is efficient supervision leading to efficient procurement. We want to achieve the best effect possible in each individual case and for our target groups.
Public procurement is extensive, especially seen in the light of the limited resources that the Swedish Competition Authority has for procurement supervision. We want to choose the right errands to reach those affected by our operations in an efficient way. For this reason, our prioritisation policy is important.
The value of public procurement in Sweden in 2015 totalled around SEK 642 billion. This corresponded to almost one sixth of the GDP. There are about 4,000 organisations which are obliged to observe the procurement rules. The most common type of contracting authority is a municipality. During 2016, contracting authorities published a total of 18,330 procurements in accordance with the procurement rules.
General preventative impact, changed behaviours and preventative effects
We become aware of many potential breaches. Therefore, we are forced to make prioritisations. We prioritise those errands which we expect to have a large general preventative impact, which will lead to the authority that is the subject of our supervision changing the behaviour that led to the breach, or which have a preventative effect in some other way. In some cases we see cause to prioritise a breach in order to highlight a certain issue.
Illegal direct awards are a particularly serious breach of the legislation and therefore an important area for our supervision.