Public procurement rules exist to open up national markets to tenderers from different EU countries. Still genuinely international public procurements are rare. We gathered some facts and tips on cross-border tendering to help to understand how it can be done!
Public procurement legislation has been created to simplify and standardize tendering processes in EU countries. All the countries are supposed to have similar rules, systems, and ways of working in order to make it irrelevant where within the EU different products and services are produced and what nationality the suppliers are. This theoretical idea is partly true, but a company participating in a foreign procurement might need some additional information to survive in the jungle of certificates, time limits, and electronic tendering systems.
We have gathered information from different Fondia countries in order to highlight the similarities and differences between the countries, as well as to provide a list of helpful notes when tendering abroad.
In Finland, the national public buyers shall publish notices and other information on upcoming and all ongoing tendering procedures (“Julkiset hankinnat”) in the official HILMA portal. Anyone is allowed to browse both national and EU notices there and, after registering to the portal, activate e-mail alerts on interesting tendering procedures. In order to obtain the procurement documents and submit a tender, HILMA redirects you to procurement portals like “tarjouspalvelu.fi” and “hanki.tarjouspalvelu.fi”.
Lithuanian public procurement notices are published in the central public procurement portal. Registration to this portal is free, however, it may take up to 3 working days for registration confirmation. In the portal, there is an option to subscribe to different “codes” which relates to various product and service sections.
Swedish procurements (“Upphandlingar”) are all gathered in Opic. From there you can, however, be redirected to different procurement portals, most common is “TendSign”, but other common portals are “E-avrop" and “Kommers”. In said portals, you can find the procurement documents after creating an account (which is always free to do).
In Estonia, the whole procurement procedure takes place in the Public Procurement Register. This is a free self-service environment for contracting authorities to conduct procurements and for economic operators to participate in public procurements. Anyone can freely browse published procurements, notices, contract information, and review committee's decisions.
The language used in HILMA is Finnish and at times Swedish (the other official language in Finland). However, in case the tendering process has international interest, the notice and procurement documents may be prepared in English at the procuring entity’s will. Due to the equality and non-discrimination principles, the notices and other procurement documents are prepared in only one language.
Most of the contracting authorities are using Lithuanian when procuring. However, in the larger infrastructure procurements (Rail Baltica, CHP plants and etc) contracting authorities usually provide documents also in English.
Swedish is used unless the procurement is believed to be of a cross-border interest, which is surprisingly uncommon. If the procurement is deemed to be of cross-border interest, it will (or at least should) be published in English. A vast majority of the procurements that are published in English are conducted by central state agencies/ministries or universities. Procurement documents are never provided in different languages.
The Public Procurement Register has an English view and the general procurement data is usually also available in English. The procurement documentation is usually in Estonian, although sometimes translations are available, but this is rather the exception.
The tenderer may be and the award winner is required to submit evidence that it has fulfilled its legal duties concerning taxes and social security payments. Furthermore, it’s required that all tenderers are listed within the national trade register (or equivalent), the preliminary taxation register, the VAT register, and the register of employers (or equivalent) in the tenderer’s country of establishment. Also, other documents may be required to be submitted like quality assurance schemes.
To prove compliance with qualification requirements companies established in Lithuania can provide a "Joint statement on the supplier participating in the procurement procedure". Foreign companies must however provide various statements issued by their national authorities.
The most basic requirements relate to certificates required as proof of registration and certificates proving payment of tax and social security contributions in your own country. Other requirements that are very common in Sweden regards quality assurance schemes and environmental management standards.
The most common certificates required are proof of registration and certificates proving payment of tax and social security contributions in your own country. Foreign companies must provide documents which are certified by the relevant national authority in the tenderer's country of origin. Reports provided by private companies who collect the status of all kind of official information about companies (like trade registration, tax registration, information on paid taxes, etc.) are not sufficient.
The time limits to submit a tender (or any documents within a procurement process) and to submit a claim are strictly regulated and often quite short. Should you fail to follow such time limits, the principles of non-discrimination and equality require the procuring entity without discretion to leave your tender outside the tender process or for the market court to refuse your claim.
Time limits are very important and strict in Lithuania, so when a notice is published you should act immediately. If you have any questions regarding tender documents or if you want to make a claim, you must do so within the time limits specified in the law or in the tender conditions. If you fail to meet the deadline, your request or claim may be (and most probably will be) rejected on the formal grounds.
It's important to follow the time limits as the deadlines are strict. No tenders that are submitted after the tender deadline will be accounted for and no questions asked after the question deadline will be answered. If you wish to submit an application for review (to “challenge” the procurement decision) you will normally have to submit the application to the relevant administrative court within 10 days. If making an international bid, have in mind that different time zones will not be accounted for.
Time limits are very important and strict. The law stipulates the minimum number of days the procurement will be open for tenders and the procurement timelines are dependent on whether it is a procurement below or above the EU threshold. No tenders that are submitted after the tender deadline will be accounted for and no questions asked after the question deadline will be answered.
Tenders in an EU tendering process must be submitted electronically in a procurement portal chosen by the procuring entity. In national tendering processes tenders can be submitted either electronically or, sometimes, in some other non-discriminatory way as chosen by the procuring entity.
All tenders in Lithuania must be submitted via the Central public procurement portal, you must register on the portal to submit the tender. In some cases, contracting authorities require tenders to be signed electronically with a digital signature, so it is always a good idea to check and test all formal requirements some time before the tendering deadline.
From Opic, where you find all procurements, you will be redirected to the procurement portal that the contracting authority use/have procured licenses for. A few contracting authorities use their own. The tenders are then usually submitted electronically in the relevant procurement portal. Direct awards (procurements of low value) are usually dealt with via e-mail.
All tenders in Estonia must be submitted via the Public Procurement Register. You can search for procurements without logging in, but if you have a question for the contracting authority and when you want to submit the tender you need to log in either with a mobile ID or ID card. Foreign tenderers must use a register link and enter the information required in the form. After saving the data, a message is sent confirming the registration of the user account, and then you can log in to the system. User guides can be found here.
Differences in e.g. the Fondia countries are, in the end, minor technicalities that should not prevent you from getting a good deal. Our Competition & Public Procurement team lawyers are represented in all Fondia countries and can answer your questions on how tendering works locally as well as give advice on best practice. Do not hesitate to contact us in case you’re interested in tendering abroad!