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France

Transparency of Public Procurement (FR0031)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: France Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Economy and Finance, Secretary of State responsible for Digital Technology

Support Institution(s): Regional Council and General Secretary for Regional Affairs (SGAR) of Brittany, City of Rennes, Burgundy-Franche-Comté Region

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Anti-Corruption, E-Government, Open Contracting and Public Procurement, Open Data, Private Sector, Public Procurement, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: France Transitional Results Report 2018-2020, France Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: No IRM Data

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Lead institution(s):
Ministry of Economy and Finance, Secretary of State responsible for Digital Technology
Other stakeholders:
Regional Council and General Secretary for Regional Affairs (SGAR) of Brittany, City of Rennes, Burgundy-Franche-Comté Region
Commitment extending Commitment 2 of the 2015-2017 NAP “Increasing transparency in public procurement”
OGP principles with which the commitment is associated:
Combating corruption, transparency
Challenges
At national level, public procurement is estimated at 15% of the GDP. It is an essential component of economic policies that helps sustain growth, fosters competitiveness and employment, and stimulates innovation. There is room for greater transparency in this expenditure category: it is an issue for citizens, with regard to accountability in public expenditure and countering corruption, as well as an economic issue, facilitating companies’ fair access to public procurement and enabling greater transparency in economic life, and an issue as regards effectiveness of public action, enabling efficient management of the policy on the part of all public officials.
Aims
Open publication of essential data on public procurement, in compliance with an international standard (Open Contracting Data Standard) and including all stakeholders2.
Transposition of European directives has provided France with a judicial framework fostering increased transparency in public procurement. Publication of essential data on public procurement (in particular on offers, candidacies and choices made) is now mandatory; in accordance with the procurement contract data repository and in compliance with the international “open contracting data standard”.
Publication of data in compliance with a single standard guarantees its availability in a usable format, as well as facilitating data interoperability and reuse. Such standardisation should finally cover all public purchasers (State, local authorities, hospitals, public institutions, etc.) and enable development of a “single flow of public procurement data”. The Brittany Region is already very much committed to this aim and provides a useful testing ground for implementation of this Commitment.
Transparency in public procurement is also an issue as regards the fight against corruption and effectiveness of public action at international level. During the Open Government Partnership World Summit held in Paris in 2016, France undertook to promote transparency in public procurement at international level. It set up the “Contracting 5” (“C5”) alliance with four other countries (Colombia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Ukraine), with the Open Contracting Partnership’s support. C5 aims to share tools and best practices on the subject and develop the international “open contracting data standard”. France will be chairing C5 as from January 2018.
Complete transparency in public procurement cannot be achieved, however, without an ambitious training and simplification plan.3 This being so, development of a policy ensuring support to and training of those involved in digital transformation of public procurement is in the pipeline.4 Similarly, simplification of procedures, of publication of national opinions in particular, and of processes, through their standardisation and interoperability, etc., is a major work focus.
The road map in detail

Designing a “single flow” of procurement contract data March 2017 to September 2018
• Making the “contract flow” available on data.gouv.fr April 2018
• • Working on the scope of data incorporated into the “contract flow” in order to go beyond the “essential data” provided for by the Decree.
• • Such data may be identified in cooperation with the players concerned, through organisation of Open Labs with developers, public purchasers, software publishers, etc. An initial Open Lab was held on 25 September 2017. 2nd open lab S1 2018
On going work until end 2019
• Developing and implementing innovative uses of public procurement data at public procurement observatories in the 2 “testing grounds”: Brittany and Occitania End 2018
• Disseminating these practices across other territories: involvement of other territories in experiments underway and publication of their data in the same format From January 2018
• Disseminatingstandardsamongtheinternationalcommunityvia Contracting 5 From January 2018
• Incorporating more countries into Contracting 5 and promoting use of international standards in those countries Early 2018
• Developing a policy ensuring support for and training of those involved in digital transformation of public procurement 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Increasing transparency in public procurement

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

At national level, public procurement is estimated at 15% of the GDP. It is an essential component of economic policies that helps sustain growth, fosters competitiveness and employment, and stimulates innovation. There is room for greater transparency in this expenditure category: it is an issue for citizens, with regard to accountability in public expenditure and countering corruption, as well as an economic issue, facilitating companies’ fair access to public procurement and enabling greater transparency in economic life, and an issue as regards effectiveness of public action, enabling efficient management of the policy on the part of all public officials.

Open publication of essential data on public procurement, in compliance with an international standard (Open Contracting Data Standard) and including all stakeholders.

Transposition of European directives has provided France with a judicial framework fostering increased transparency in public procurement. Publication of essential data on public procurement (in particular on offers, candidacies and choices made) is now mandatory; in accordance with the procurement contract data repository and in compliance with the international “open contracting data standard”.

Publication of data in compliance with a single standard guarantees its availability in a usable format, as well as facilitating data interoperability and reuse. Such standardisation should finally cover all public purchasers (State, local authorities, hospitals, public institutions, etc.) and enable development of a “single flow of public procurement data”. The Brittany Region is already very much committed to this aim and provides a useful testing ground for implementation of this Commitment.

Transparency in public procurement is also an issue as regards the fight against corruption and effectiveness of public action at international level. During the Open Government Partnership World Summit held in Paris in 2016, France undertook to promote transparency in public procurement at international level. It set up the “Contracting 5” (“C5”) alliance with four other countries (Colombia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Ukraine), with the Open Contracting Partnership’s support. C5 aims to share tools and best practices on the subject and develop the international “open contracting data standard”. France will be chairing C5 as from January 2018.

Complete transparency in public procurement cannot be achieved, however, without an ambitious training and simplification plan. This being so, development of a policy ensuring support to and training of those involved in digital transformation of public procurement is in the pipeline. Similarly, simplification of procedures, of publication of national opinions in particular, and of processes, through their standardisation and interoperability, etc., is a major work focus. [5]

Milestones

2.1 Designing a “single flow” of procurement contract data

2.2 Making the “contract flow” available on data.gouv.fr

2.3 Working on the scope of data incorporated into the “contract flow” in order to go beyond the “essential data” provided for by the Decree.

Such data may be identified in cooperation with the players concerned, through organisation of Open Labs with developers, public purchasers, software publishers, etc. An initial Open Lab was held on 25 September 2017.

2.4 Developing and implementing innovative uses of public procurement data at public procurement observatories in the 2 “testing grounds”: Brittany and Occitania

2.5 Disseminating these practices across other territories: involvement of other territories in experiments underway and publication of their data in the same format

2.6 Disseminating standards among the international community via Contracting 5

2.7 Incorporating more countries into Contracting 5 and promoting use of international standards in those countries

2.8 Developing a policy ensuring support for and training of those involved in digital transformation of public procurement

Start Date: 2018

End Date: 2020

Context and Objectives

Public procurement corresponds to 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, including 160,000 contracts yearly and 89 billion euros. [6] It constitutes both a significant source of economic activity and the main space where companies interact with the public sector. Generally, public procurement is a sector that is particularly prone to corruption. [7] In France, information about procurement contracts, offers, bidders, and contractors is not easily accessible. [8] Governmental decree 2016-360 (March 2016) required buyers to give complete and open access to “essential data” on procurement contracts on their buyer profile, from the 1 October 2018. This decree covered all contracts over 25,000 euros (excluding tax), with the exception of contracts relating to defense and security. [9] Two administrative decrees, signed on 14 April 2017 [10] and 27 July 2018, [11] later defined “essential data” (concerning the attribution phase).

This commitment aims to improve public access to information through the use of technology, making it relevant to the OGP values of access to information and technology and innovation. It follows the efforts of the region of Brittany, which launched the Breizh Small Business Act. Breizh Small Business Act provides local companies with essential data on public procurement. It also inspired the definition of the standard pivot format and the automatization of data collection through buyer profiles. [12]

Procurement data in France is not centralized or standardized. There are more than 35,000 local governments. The fragmentation of data might make it difficult for companies—especially small businesses—citizens, and civil society organizations to monitor public procurement. Administrative and territorial complexity create several obstacles for data centralization. Buyers are required to publish the URL of their buyer profile on data.gouv.fr, but there are currently very few declared buyer profiles. The plurality of information systems used also makes data aggregation difficult. The burden of the task lies principally with Etalab, since the law requires buyers to publish their essential data on their profiles only. Etalab then holds responsibility for centralizing the information and making it easily accessible, in collaboration with profile editors. [13]

This commitment aims to increase transparency in public procurement, mainly by centralizing data and broadening the scope of information made public. While the commitment is specific enough to be verified, it does not specify what new data will be made available. The commitment also encourages the reuse of data to make it accessible to members of the public who are not experts. The commitment has an international dimension, whereby the government aims to encourage other countries to align with international standards promoted by the Open Contracting Partnership and the Contracting 5 (United Kingdom, Mexico, Colombia, Ukraine, France, and Argentina).

As written, the commitment is verifiable. The first two milestones concerning the centralization of data are specific and easily assessable. The last two milestones on international outreach and training of officials could be more specific regarding target countries and population.

The other four milestones are, however, too vague to be properly assessed. Milestone 2.3 indicates that the government commits only to work on adding data to the essential data required by decree. The milestone does not provide any information about what the government actually commits to do. Similarly, Milestones 2.4 and 2.5, which are cumulative, do not provide sufficient information about how the data will be used innovatively. Milestone 2.6 indicates that the government commits to promote international standards abroad through the Contracting 5. This is too vague both in wording (such as how standards will be promoted and who will they be promoted to) and regarding the implementing agent, since the government would have to rely on its partner countries to fulfill this engagement.

This initiative could have a potentially transformative impact. Data on procurement is not currently centralized, and the current legal framework does not require the centralization of data. This commitment aims to centralize and standardize procurement data. If fully implemented, it could allow for better access to information for companies, which would level the playing field and improve competition. It could also provide better access to civil society organizations, which would allow them to better monitor procurement processes and identify red flags.

Public procurement is very important for the country’s economic performance, given the high number of contracts awarded. However, the current difficulties in accessing clear and complete information about public contracts limits competition and may facilitate corruption or other misconduct in procurement processes. Through this commitment, the government aims to go beyond the existing legal framework to create an automatized flow of information regarding public procurement. It aims to train public officials to respond to the lack of data savviness within the public service, especially at the local level. [14] However, the responsibility for data centralization appears to lie principally with Etalab. [15]

Next steps

The IRM researcher recommends the commitment be prioritized in the next action plan. The IRM researcher also recommends considering the following actions:

  • Provide more specific information concerning the type of data to be included.
  • Launch an information campaign to raise the public’s awareness and understanding regarding the existence and potential of this data.
  • Prepare videos and other learning material to explain how other civil society actors, including smaller-sized companies, can make use of the single flow of data.
  • Clarify the following information from the commitment text: “training of those involved in digital transformation of public procurement” (e.g., which audience, trained on what).
[5] For a Transparent and Collaborative Government: France National Action Plan 2018–2020, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/France-Action-Plan-2018-2020-English.pdf (accessed on 10 January 2019).
[6] L'Observatoire Économique de la Commande Publique, Les Données de la Commande Publique : le Recensement Économique des Marches Publics - Synthèse 2014/2017, https://www.economie.gouv.fr/files/files/directions_services/daj/marches_publics/oecp/recensement/chiffres-OECP-cp-2017.pdf (accessed on 8 February 2019).
[7] OECD, Prevention Corruption in Public Procurement, 2016, http://www.oecd.org/gov/ethics/Corruption-Public-Procurement-Brochure.pdf (accessed on 8 February 2019); and Transparency International, Curbing Corruption in Public Procurement: A Practical Guide, 2014, https://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/publication/curbing_corruption_in_public_procurement_a_practical_guide (accessed on 8 February 2019).
[8] “Forum Open d’Etat #5—Transparence de la Commande Publique,” 12 December 2018.
[9] Xavier Berne, “Coup d’Envoi des Obligations d’Open Data sur les ‘Données Essentielles’ des Marchés Publics,” Next Inpact, 2018, https://www.nextinpact.com/news/107069-coup-denvoi-obligations-dopen-data-sur-donnees-essentielles-marches-publics.htm (accessed on 8 February 2019).
[10] “Arrêté du 14 Avril 2017 Relatif aux Données Essentielles dans la Commande Publique,” LegiFrance, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000034492587&dateTexte=20181001 (accessed on 8 February 2019).
[11] “Arrêté du 27 Juillet 2018 Modifiant l'Arrêté du 14 April 2017 Relatif aux Données Essentielles dans la Commande Publique,” LegiFrance, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000037282994&dateTexte=&categorieLien=id (accessed on 8 February 2019).
[12] Etalab official, email communication with IRM researcher, 21 February 2019.
[13] Etalab official, email communication with IRM researcher, 21 February 2019.
[14] Xavier Berne, op. cit., 2018; Gabriel Zignani, “Votre Collectivité a-t-Elle Engagé une Démarche d’Ouverture des Données?” La Gazette des Communes, 7 February 2018, https://www.lagazettedescommunes.com/570941/votre-collectivite-a-t-elle-engage-une-demarche-douverture-des-donnees/ (accessed on 8 February 2019); and Romain Mazon, “Open Data et Collectivités : Qui Fait Quoi, et Comment?” La Gazette des Communes, 10 December 2018, https://www.lagazettedescommunes.com/586475/open-data-et-collectivites-qui-fait-quoi-et-comment/ (accessed on 8 February 2019).
[15] Etalab official, email communication with IRM researcher, 21 February 2019.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Increasing transparency in public procurement

Completion: Limited

The government centralized and standardized contract data on the national open data portal. [xix] The aggregation of data in a single file is incomplete due to technical problem relating to the standardization of data, with a significant amount of data missing. [xx] There is no evidence of efforts made to publish data beyond the procurement related data outlined by decree (referred to as “essential data”), but the government self-assessment indicated that the deadline for this milestone was moved to 2022. Two regions (Occitanie and Bretagne) developed public platforms to monitor public procurement, but there is no evidence of this model being reproduced elsewhere. [xxi] France no longer contributed to the work of the international group ‘Contracting 5’.

[xix] Données essentielles de la commande publique - fichiers consolidés DECP, Data.gouv.fr, https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/donnees-essentielles-de-la-commande-publique-fichiers-consolides/ (accessed on 5 February 2021)
[xx] Kevin Gernier, Transparency International France. Email communication with author. 19 November 2020 ; Samuel Goëta, Datactivist. Phone interview with author. 25 November 2020.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership