EU tendering rules stall home PC plan

Kent County Council’s plans to introduce a home computing scheme have been stalled because of EU regulation surrounding public sector procurement. The council had hoped the scheme, which offers discounted PCs to staff, would be launched at the end of 2004, but the authority is still only halfway through the lengthy tender process required under EU public procurement rules. Personnel officer Christine Curtis said: "If the contract is worth more than a certain amount you have to open it up to the European Union. Obviously Kent Council is huge – we have 34,000 staff – so we have to be very careful that we are seen to be doing things right. "That’s what’s holding us up, because we had hoped to get [the computers] in before Christmas." Under EU regulation, when contracts exceed a certain threshold, currently around £100,000, public sector bodies must publish an open invitation for quotations from EU suppliers. "We put an advert in the Official Journal of the European Union. The closing date is fairly soon and people will send their tenders in a month after that. We are hoping to have [the scheme live] in late spring [or] summer. It is very long winded." The council will then draw up a shortlist of home computing providers looking at a number of criteria, such as insurance arrangements, distribution partners and experience, before finalising the deal.