The Commission gets what the Commission measures
I recently stumbled on The EU Single Market Scoreboard on Public Procurement. My first thought was that this should be interesting. Second was why haven’t I heard about this before even though I’ve been working with public procurement for almost a decade now.
My enthusiasm towards the Scoreboard changed through confusion to disappointment when I started to read it. The Scoreboard measures several KPI’s of public procurement in the member states and ranks the member states by the KPIs. The results are visualised with traffic lights and bar charts. This would be very interesting if the indicators measured indicators that truly have an impact on productivity or better value for money. However, the Scoreboard focuses on measuring how EU regulation has been followed. There are some interesting indicators such as No Calls for Bids but most of the indicators are confusing and truly odd. I would also assume that they are not that interesting to the public.
One thing that crossed my mind when examining the Scoreboard was that it doesn’t consider the cultural differences within the EU at all. Cultural differences affect our behaviour. The differences affect the way we manage, operate, report, follow the EU directives and implement them in our own laws. Therefore, it also influences the results of this Scoreboard.
In fairness, it is stated in Scoreboard that the indicators provide only a simplified picture. This raises a question why? What’s the point of this type of Scoreboard and who is it aimed at? Are they measuring things just for the sake of measuring and reporting? Who uses this Scoreboard and for what? The current content doesn’t really serve anyone because it measures the wrong things, and if you measure wrong things you ‘d be better off at not measuring at all.
Measure the results - not the process
The Commission has set great expectations to public procurement for solving many of the economic problems EU has. At the same time, it seems to measure, which country is best at following the rules and regulations it has set. I am all about equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency but as an employee of the public sector, I believe that following the regulations should be a no-brainer for everyone in the public sector. When it comes to procurement following regulations just isn’t enough. It is not the same as getting the best value for money. You may have a procurement that is so well in line with the regulation that lawyers and internal inspectors want to cry but what really matters is what happens after the procedure has been concluded. How the contracts work in real life? What outcomes do we get from the resources we put in? And, what kind of impact do the outcomes have on productivity, if any?
The best value for money is gained if buyers start to buy more outcomes that are effective instead of inputs. Instead of focusing on measuring procurement process, the Commission should measure the impact the public procurement has on productivity within the EU. And, if the Commission starts to measure productivity, it may just get that.