The new legislation on public procurement includes a commitment to electronic means, facilitates access to SMEs, increases transparency and places greater emphasis on environmental, social and innovative policies. With the same aim of optimising resources, the government has approved three contracts on the centralised procurement of public administration services.

Following the Council of Ministers, the Minister for Education, Culture and Sport and the Government Spokesperson, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, stressed that this week has started to see the current “legislature of dialogue” become “a true reality”.

On the one hand, the Toledo Pact Commission met on Tuesday in the Lower House of Parliament, and, on the other hand, the government met on Thursday at Moncloa Palace with representatives of the employers’ associations and the trade unions to “give a fresh boost to social dialogue, starting out on a path that seeks to build consensuses on economic recovery, with growth and job creation”, according to Íñigo Méndez de Vigo.

Public procurement

Within this framework of dialogue, the government has submitted two draft laws on public procurement to Parliament, one of a general nature and another on specific sectors, explained the Government Spokesperson.

The minister stated that this new legislation not only introduces significant amendments to the procedures on public sector procurement, but also forms part of the reformist agenda that the government has been deploying since 2012 and which, in regard to the public administration, seeks to improve the functioning and more effective use of public resources. Íñigo Méndez de Vigo pointed out that the rate of implementation of the Programme of the Commission for the Reform of the Public Administration Services (Spanish acronym: CORA) now stands at 87%: 193 measures have been completed, with an estimated saving of 30 billion euros for the public authorities and 5 billion in regard to relations with individuals.

The Government Spokesperson explained that the draft laws transpose three EU Directives, after a very extensive implementation process, with more than 120 reports requested. When these were finalised, they could not be submitted for their passage through the Spanish Parliament since there was an acting government in place. Since the deadline for the transposition of the directives has now expired, the government will request their passage under the fast-track procedure.

Main new features

One of the fundamental goals of the new legislation is to reduce administrative burdens and speed up procedures. In this regard, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo underlined the use of signed statements, which means that the business owner only has to present documentation if awarded the contract. If the company is registered in the Official Register of Bidders and Classified Companies, it will not even need to present this for contracts where additional documentation is required in the event that this has been previously presented, pointed out the minister.

Furthermore, a commitment is made to the use of electronic means – incorporating the mandatory use of communications and notifications through electronic procurement – and the deadlines for awards are reduced. Access by small- and medium-sized enterprises is also facilitated, for example, by incentivising the division of contracts into lots. On the other hand, the use of entities that act by a direct commission from the contracting body without following a contractual procedure is now restricted.

Another basic aim of the legislation, according to the minister, is to improve public disclosure, transparency and the fight against corruption. Among these new features, undisclosed negotiation procedures are eliminated and a new, open simplified procedure is created, with a shorter contractual duration which is disclosed and more transparent. Moreover, those convicted of corruption between private persons may not become public contractors. The new legislation includes political parties, related foundations, trade union organisations and business associations when principally financed from the public coffers.

The Government Spokesperson also declared that the two draft laws help promote environmental, social and innovation and development policies. For example, those companies that substantiate certain standards of equality between men and women or that have measures in place to the benefit of persons with disabilities may be given a certain priority.

Centralised procurement

Along the same lines of streamlining public spending and increasing efficiency, the Council of Ministers approved three contracts for centralised public procurement.

The first relates to postal services for administrative and judicial notifications for an estimated sum of 268 million euros. The second is for the supply of furniture for a maximum sum of 65 million euros with an estimated saving of 12 million. Finally, the Council of Ministers authorised a framework agreement for the centralised procurement of vaccines, with the participation of 14 autonomous regions, with an expected saving of 58 million euros over the period 2017-2019.

Fight against gender-based violence

The government approved a Declaration on the occasion of the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women, on 25 November.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo stated that, in the same way as the event presided over by the President of the Government at Moncloa Palace, this initiative reflects the government’s commitment to combat this “cowardly violence” that is “a social scourge” and “a State issue that calls for the unity of all the political forces”. He also recalled that a sub-committee in the Lower House of Parliament has been set up to this end.

Collaboration with Balearic Islands

The Council of Ministers authorised the Balearic Islands Tax Agency to formalise short-term debt operations for a maximum sum of 200 million euros. Íñigo Méndez de Vigo explained that this region met neither its budget stability target, nor the ceiling on spending in 2015 and called for authorisation from the tax agency to cover temporary cash needs.

For the minister, the decision of the Council of Ministers is an example of institutional cooperation. “Frank and fruitful dialogue between public authorities on issues that affect their citizens is the right path to take to resolve these problems”, he argued.

Reports and appointments

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo explained that at the meeting of the Council of Ministers, the Minister for Economic Affairs reported on the potential consequences of ‘Brexit’ “and the government’s commitment to convert our country into an attractive place for the relocation” of entities that may derive from the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Finally, the Council of Ministers approved various appointments, including the Chief Public Prosecutor and the State’s Attorney General, the Auditor General of the State Administration, the Director-General of the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts and the President and Vice-President of the National Securities Market Commission.

Current affairs

With regard to the the Member of the Upper House, Rita Barberá, and the proposal by the Parliamentary Spokesperson for the People’s Party (PP), Rafael Hernando, to revise the pact with Ciudadanos that establishes that those accused of corruption must resign from their posts, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo pointed out that “pacts exist to be complied with”, but considers that it is necessary to reflect on the presumption of innocence. “I think that it would be good for all political parties to adopt a common position”, he said.

On another note, the Government Spokesperson described the agreement between the parliamentary groups of the PP, the PSOE and Ciudadanos to set up a sub-committee in the Lower House of Parliament to draft a report within six months to reach a “Political and Social State Agreement on Education in Spain” as “very positive” and a “good start”.

As regards the announcement by the trade unions to arrange a series of marches, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo considers that it would be better to wait for the results of the talks being held between the government and the trade unions. “I think that you need to allow room for dialogue to flourish and allow solutions to be found. I believe that marches should only be used as an instrument of last resort”, he remarked.

In terms of the request having been granted against the MP, Francesc Homs, the Government Spokesperson asserted that “this goes to show that no-one, not even a Member of the Upper of Lower House, is above the law” which is the same for everyone and must be upheld by everyone.

When asked about a possible constitutional reform on the commencement of bilateral negotiations with Catalonia, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo said that “he feels it is important to start to talk about dialogue, and to start to explore ways that are not ‘all or nothing'”. However, he added, when you start down this path, you must know what you want to reform, specify what the reform consists of and see whether there is sufficient consensus.

In relation to the extension to the Prado Museum, the minister expressed his confidence in the political consensus regarding this institution remaining in place and allowing its “magnificent” renovation and the “search for funds in order for this to come to fruition”.