Wasted days and wasted nights

Source: Mr George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on The Malta Independent on Wednesday 9th April 2014

No¸ my article is not about the late Freddy Fender’s famous song – it is a lament about the wasted efforts by SMEs that toil and labour under unfair procurement rules that mitigate in favour of bigger¸ more established bidders more than ever in government tenders. All this is happening in the decade since we joined the gilded club in Brussels – itself bursting with rules that revere SMEs in their fragile ascent up the nursery slopes during such recessionary times.

Yes¸ on paper these rules do exist¸ but experience has shown that they permeate our public procurement system rather slowly¸ if at all. It is crucial that adherence to EU public procurement rules centres on effective enforcement in all public entities and it is surprising that¸ in practice¸ one comes across instances where the monitoring of such implementation is tweaked – particularly in the implementation of good governance and transparency. This is not in the true spirit of EU rules.

Karel De Gucht¸ ex-European Commissioner for Trade¸ said: “I am a firm believer in making sure trade flows freely and government procurement must be an essential part of open trade markets worldwide. It’s good for business¸ good for consumers and brings value for money for taxpayers. This proposal will increase the leverage of the European Union¸ in international negotiations and with our partners¸ to open up their procurement markets for European companies. I am confident that they will then get a fair opportunity at winning government contracts overseas and so generate jobs.”

Such transparency is vital to all bidders to government tenders but¸ of course¸ it is always the SMEs that suffer the most when they try to penetrate the inner sanctum of accredited larger suppliers. It comes as no surprise that Economy¸ Investment and Small Business Minister Chris Cardona was reported to have outlined: “…boosting transparency $and removing $unnecessary red tape”* as the government’s priority in this commitment for the improvement of the economy.

The reader may well ask if this article intends to recount particular instances where transgressions in procurement rules have occurred and¸ yes¸ they will be regaled with two flagrant examples. It is a pity that one expects nepotism and cronyis