4. Making room for change: Recommendations for Slovenia

As part of the work for this report, officials from the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) and the public procurement team, conducted over 50 interviews with a varied and diverse set of stakeholders. Among the interviewees were officials from many different ministries and offices of the central government, including an independent review commission, auditing bodies and anti-corruption officials; sub-national and local government officials and procurement authorities; representatives from the private sector and civil society; journalists; and a member of parliament.

The observations from these interviews were combined with OECD research and a body of work produced by the European Commission, to develop a series of initial findings. These findings were discussed, evaluated and validated in a series of workshops with the participation of diverse representatives from across the public procurement ecosystem. These workshops confirmed some of the key challenges in the procurement system, as discussed earlier in this report, and also identified core areas of opportunity for engaging in reforms. In the workshops, the OECD worked together with participants to co-create solutions that uniquely balanced a number of factors. In particular, the co-created solutions sought to:

  • achieve change where ambition and support currently exist or could be rallied

  • address areas where Slovenia has the most immediate opportunity to capitalise on elements of what participants agreed were the “purposes of public procurement” (Chapter 2)

  • Focus on high-priority areas where innovation is most needed, as determined by the participants.

In addition, when co-created solutions identified by participants as “high priority” were considered against the identified purposes of innovation, discussed earlier in this report, the OECD noted the existence of a few gaps (e.g. they did not generally focus on the purpose of “driving the economy”). In addition, gaps emerged when comparisons were made to the tensions and dilemmas Slovenia faces in the context of global practice and European procurement strategy (e.g. the need to enhance professionalisation of the procurement workforce, which could help support all identified purposes).1 Thus, in addition to the three priority action items identified through the co-creation process, this report provides additional action items that Slovenia could explore as objectives of future reform of its procurement system.

The OECD thus recommends six actions that could help ease Slovenia’s foundational challenges and the systems dilemmas discussed in this report. The first three are priority actions, the last three are additional actions.

  1. Develop procurement communities of practice in order to facilitate connections and the exchange of knowledge.

  2. Foster understanding and collaboration among technical experts, policy specialists and procurement officials, in order to move beyond Slovenia’s “hand-off mentality” where procurements are conducted in a siloed and linear manner without a strong focus on outcomes or user needs.

  3. Manage risk and create safe spaces for experimentation to introduce new governance arrangements in relevant procurement process which would help procurement officials engage in experiments without fear.

  4. Enhance the professionalism of the procurement workforce to remedy challenges associated with the current disparity of knowledge and experience across government, and to ensure all procurement officials are equipped with the capacities and opportunities to succeed.

  5. Establish pathways to facilitate the flow of innovation and new ideas across government and bring innovation and new ideas into government from the outside.

  6. Take deliberate steps to drive the economy and enhance competition, in order to more strategically leverage the 10% of GDP that Slovenia spends on public procurements, with a view to strengthening local companies and achieving a healthy market and improved outcomes.

The following section provides real-world examples of how other governments and stakeholders have sought to implement these actions and are working to achieve similar objectives. While the OECD is not necessarily recommending that Slovenia replicate these examples, these cases may provide inspiration or elements that could Slovenian officials could adapt to their own unique context.

The highest priority item identified in the co-creation workshops was the need for procurement communities of practices and other networks, both formal and informal, to facilitate the exchange of knowledge. Indeed, throughout the course of the OECD’s engagement with Slovenia for this project, the OECD team noted the lack of mechanisms to bring together officials to learn from one other. The participants themselves remarked that the workshops provided a rare opportunity for them to meet stakeholders from other parts of government, an experience they found valuable and would like to see repeated on a regular basis. While addressing this priority item could have cross-cutting benefits, it would clearly help address challenges associated with “fragmentation versus connectedness”. The ability to share experiences and learning can also assist with the “legal versus behavioural” dilemma by increasing the visibility around potential actions.

Around the world, countries are increasingly setting up effective yet often relatively simple networks and communities of practice to help civil servants transcend bureaucratic silos and fragmented government structures. Such communities or networks help advance implementation in a consistent, unified manner. In fact, a recent OECD (2016[1]) survey found that that 63% of OECD countries (22 out of 35) have innovation networks in place across the Civil Service. Such a network in Slovenia could focus on innovative procurement, or all types of procurement, to help people connect and learn from one other.

These communities of practice and networks can take a number of different forms; for instance:

  • They can be led from the Centre of Government (CoG), such as through the Ministry of Public Administration, or be more ground-up and employee-driven

  • They can be formally structured with governance structures and set processes, or more informal, such as meetup groups

  • They can be government-only or open to external parties from civil society and the private sector

  • They can be fully virtual, in-person or a combination of the two.

Many such cases exist around the world that could help inspire Slovenia and provide examples of different approaches. Communities can be started up with little overhead costs; for example, the UK government has built a series of communities for civil servants hosted on Google Groups and through Slack Channels on a wide variety of topics, some of which touch on procurement.2 In Canada, GCpedia and GCconnex provide connection points for individuals working in government (see Box 4.1), with different digital discussion groups focusing on a variety of subjects. Portugal’s Common Knowledge Network provides more open collaboration opportunities by inviting non-governmental participants to join the community (Box 4.2); and in the Netherlands, a one-stop-shop for procurement officials takes the same approach for targeted areas of procurement (Box 4.3).

In another example, the United States Federal Enterprise Data Resources portal (Box 4.4) serves as a hybrid community of practice and open, living policy guidelines to ensure that all stakeholders have access to the same uniform guidance. While this example focuses on open data, such a community for procurement could exist in Slovenia and help to ensure alignment across government and sectors. It could also provide all involved in procurement with the possibility to improve policy implementation, and the community with an opportunity to share ideas and build on each other’s work.

Beyond simply serving as a community, such an approach is unique in that it serves as a source of living policy guidance able to adapt and be iterated upon as the government and open data ecosystem grows, learns and evolve. The traditional approach to developing policy guidance often involves a central team of skilled civil servants drafting guidance based on their knowledge, experience and research. At the end of the process the guidance is published, typically in PDF form, for government agencies to follow. However, sometimes the policy and guidance has flaws or gaps that become apparent, and there is little or no ability to make adjustments as implementation evolves and the context changes. The traditional approach also limits iterative learning based on experiences that accumulate during implementation.

The contexts in which governments operate today are complex and change in rapid and potentially unforeseeable ways. The traditional approach of issuing inflexible guidance increasingly is no longer suitable. The Federal Enterprise Data Resources portal is an example of an attempt to leverage a community to produce guidance for agencies that is iteratively refined and enhanced based on lessons learned. Models such as this and the other examples presented could allow Slovenian procurement officials from experienced teams to share their processes and templates, and help procurement officers from smaller authorities (e.g. schools) to access and re-use them. They also enable procurement officials to communicate and work from the same baseline of knowledge.

Governments are increasingly developing or otherwise supporting public sector and cross-sector communities of practices and collaboration networks within their countries. Momentum is also increasing for international collaboration communities. One such example is the informal and growing OneTeamGov Global community (Box 4.5), which Slovenian procurement officials could freely join. By participating in international dialogue at a future OneTeamGov Global event, or even forming a chapter or its own, the Slovenian Government could promote informal interactions and learn from others internationally.

Communities and networks can also be very informal. Box 4.6 presents #ProcurementHour, an example of a highly informal procurement community of practice in the United Kingdom. The Government of Slovenia could engage in a similar open communications community, or could encourage ground-up communities, by making civil servants aware that such open dialogue is acceptable and even encouraged. By leveraging Twitter instead of a proprietary or closed solution, #ProcurementHour operates in a space with an existing broad base of users. This reduces the hurdles associated with enticing users to use a system with which they are not familiar. Because the dialogue is open, non-governmental actors can also participate in the discussion, enabling questions to be addressed and resolved, and government, industry and civil society to operate on the same page.

A second key theme throughout the OECD interviews was the disconnect between technical and programme staff, who have specific expertise in their policy and managing domains, and procurement officials, who are responsible for procuring goods and services for these domains. This is a core aspect of the “fragmentation versus connectedness” systems dilemma (see Chapter 3), with interviewees and workshop participants commonly referring to a “hand-off mentality”, where procurements are conducted in a siloed and linear manner. Programme staff spend time developing their requirements, and then give the file to procurement officials to execute the procurement process. Interviewees and workshop participants reported little communication between these groups, and noted that each operated with a different set of objectives and a different vision of what constitutes “success”. Challenges in this area also contributed significantly to the “strategic versus tactical” dilemma (Chapter 3), as staff involved in procurement often move from one procurement to the next without broader strategic considerations.

Developing procurement communities of practices, as discussed above, would likely assist in relieving some of this tension, as long as the community is designed through engagement with both technical and procurement officials and guided by higher-level strategic principles. However, participants in the co-creation workshop stated that additional, targeted actions were needed to bridge the gap between these groups and to help change the dynamics of the “hand-off” culture.

Instead of structuring procurement processes around separate, disconnected linear processes, with different types of people associated with each step, Slovenia could move towards a model where multi-disciplinary teams work together from the beginning of the procurement process through to the end, with each having shared goals. Such goals could be communicated at team, organisational and broader strategic levels. This approach would mean including both programme officials and procurement officials from the outset, as well as other potentially relevant stakeholders.

OPSI (2019[2]) research has shown that multi-disciplinarity is one of the most critical factors for the success of projects, especially those where innovative or different approaches are used, or projects involving technology. As Slovenia seeks to leverage procurement approaches that move beyond traditional procurement processes, this will become even more important. OPSI has recommended that, at the outset of any project, governments should convene a group consisting of the skilled individuals necessary to make the process a success. Such individuals could include policy analysts and advisors, field experts, user-experience designers, software developers, attorneys and, of course, procurement officials. While their level of engagement may vary throughout the lifecycle of a project, they should have the ability to become involved and provide feedback throughout the process, from design and initial requirement gathering through to implementation and evaluation.

The OECD recently published an ICT commissioning playbook that emphasises this point. It states that in order “to design user-driven procurement processes and contracts, public sector organisations should form multidisciplinary teams with a set of different capabilities. Teams should ideally include procurement and commercial capabilities as well as user-centred service design and agile delivery capabilities, from the beginning of the commissioning process.”3 The playbook also calls for government teams to “set the context”, in order to understand how things fit together in a more strategic way. Although this playbook was drafted with ICT in mind, these particular approaches are applicable for all procurement activities.

Shifting to more strategic procurement practices further emphasises the need for multi-disciplinary collaboration. As procurement becomes more of a strategic tool, the focal point of action across the lifecycle of the approach shifts. As a result of this change, effort is greater at the pre-tendering and contract execution phase, including planning, research and analysis, than at the contract management phase (Figure 4.1). This means that procurement officers will need to work together with content matter experts and policy experts beforehand, to ensure that any research and preparation respects the rules of procurement, but also allows for exploration and thorough canvasing of possibilities.

Governments are increasingly recognising the importance of multi-disciplinarity to achieving success in mission outcomes and a more strategic approach. The example of the Service Innovation Lab in New Zealand shows how the government has developed mechanisms for multi-disciplinary experimentation (Box 4.7). Meanwhile, the city of Ghent, Belgium views collaboration with multi-disciplinary actors and experts as a core component of its integrated procurement strategies (Box 4.8). Finally, Data61 (Box 4.9) provides an intensive example of how Australia is promoting multi-disciplinarity around the topic of Artificial Intelligence. However, significant improvement can be achieved through much simpler mechanisms, for example, by encouraging programme staff and procurement officials to work together from the early design stages through to implementation on the basis of broad strategic aims.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach could help Slovenia move away from a hand-off culture and ease tensions associated with the country’s “strategic versus tactical” systems dilemma. However, additional measured may be needed to align goals and measures of success among programme staff and procurement officials. In interviews and workshops, procurement officials stated that success, for them, was defined simply in terms of completing the procedure and/or obtaining the lowest price. Obtaining the optimal solution that best suits the mission and strategic goals was generally not a consideration. Building multi-disciplinary teams therefore also requires aligning the goals and incentives for all team members.

Australia has sought to align goals and incentives by introducing a Procurement Awards for Excellence programme at the national level (Box 4.10). While focusing on procurement, the awards also emphasise positive outcomes delivered through procurement, and not simply outputs related to completing procedures and obtaining a low price. Awards and other forms of recognition could help Slovenia to raise the profile of public procurement officers and also highlight good and innovative practices in the field.

Finally, in addition to encouraging understanding and collaboration between programmatic and procurement roles, a number of governments have developed innovative human resources programmes to give individuals real-world experience of serving in different roles. Temporary movement of staff from one agency to another or from one position to another can help staff gain new experiences, provide access to new skills, build horizontal relationships and help build a broader understanding of their work and the work environment. It can also expose staff to different ways of approaching innovation. Offering procurement officials the chance to work in a programmatic role in Slovenia (or vice-versa), would give them the opportunity to learn more about and understand the values, strategic aims, principles and practices of other roles. Such an approach could take place within one organisation, or could be structured to allow people to experience work in other organisations in the public sector.

Slovenia already has some experience in engaging in innovative human resource programmes. The country’s “Partnership for Change”4 initiative represents an innovative practice, based on building a strong partnership between the business sector and public administration. The main objectives of the programme are to overcome the gap between these two worlds, enhance understanding about the different goals and views, establish knowledge transfer between organisations and build a strong partnership for addressing common challenges. Slovenia could perhaps develop a programme to better connect the technical and programmatic worlds with the world of procurement.

A number of government initiatives and models exist around the world that Slovenia could consider as it explores such a programme. Canada’s Free Agents programme (Box 4.11) is an example of a large centralised effort. Slovenia could also pursue smaller and/or decentralised initiatives where employees are seconded to other roles temporarily.

One of the biggest challenges uncovered through the work for this report in Slovenia is a significant aversion to risk. Procurement officials – while often seeking to ensure “legitimacy and trust in the process” – tend to use traditional procurement processes that are well understood and minimise personal risk, even when these processes may be less likely to yield optimal results and other processes (e.g. pro-commercial procurement, innovation partnerships) are permitted. Risk avoidance is also the main reason why many procurement officials use price as the only real criterion when selecting a winning bid (see the section on the “strategic versus tactical” systems dilemma in Chapter 3). This behaviour reflects the tension between perception versus reality, with procurement officials habitually conducting procedures that seem safer and less likely to be perceived as corrupt, even though the end results may be less likely to succeed. Procurement officials, and Slovenia in general, are not alone here. Risk aversion is perhaps the most classic and commonly discussed challenge for public sector innovation.

As is common in risk-averse cultures, the OECD observed some inconsistency in what interviewees believed was permitted under procurement rules. What some believed to be allowed (e.g. challenge-based procurements), others believed to be forbidden or even illegal. Even those that believed innovative approaches to procurement were possible stated that few officials, if any, were conducting these types of procurement (see the section on the “legal versus behavioural” systems dilemma in Chapter 3 for a discussion of these types of perspectives). These challenges with regard to perceptions versus reality are well documented in research (Pykett et al., 2016[3]). However, the view that public servants are facing insurmountable barriers to policy change and innovation may not be entirely substantiated in reality. Research has found that a perceived lack of flexibility may be a more powerful barrier to taking initiatives than actual barriers in law or the lack of financial resources (de Jong, 2014[4]).

As a result of the challenges brought about by fear and risk aversion, the co-creation workshops identified a pressing need to create mechanisms to better understand and manage risk, including the creation of safe spaces to allow officials to experiment and try new approaches. Rather than changing procurement procedures themselves, which generally already include provisions for flexible and innovative practices, these mechanisms focus on communications, education, training, governance arrangements and creating exploratory spaces.

A number of governments have sought to manage problems associated with risk aversion by providing uniform guidance for all relevant stakeholders to help ensure the same baseline knowledge of what is and is not allowed, as well as tools and resources to undertake permitted agile and innovative processes. For example, the US government has issued the TechFAR Handbook to document existing flexibilities for agile procurement and show how they can be achieved (Box 4.12). In another example, the Australian government has developed ClauseBank to provide a repository of pre-vetted contract clauses that procurement officials can cut and paste (Box 4.13). Slovenia could develop such guidance and a repository for innovative and agile contract language, templates and tips on how to use them for use by communities of practice. The mechanism should also stimulate administrations testing new approaches to promote them to others. This could help fulfil procurement needs and crowd-in resources in more efficient and effective ways, as well as help to overcome challenges associated with several systems dilemmas by providing easy-to-access baseline knowledge.

In another example, Chile is taking a co-creation approach to developing government procurement guidance that identifies potential opportunities for innovation based on the experience of procurement officials (Box 4.14).

In addition to providing a common understanding and centralised guidance for achieving innovative procurement, governments can also create safe spaces for public officials to test innovative procurement approaches. Such small-scale experiments are generally already permitted within existing procurement procedures, and enable governments to mitigate potential risks associated with inadvertently breaking rules or even outright failure.

These types of safe spaces are most commonly manifested in the form of small groups of public servants dedicated to innovation. Common examples include innovation labs, incubators and digital service teams. There has been significant growth in these types of groups in recent years, partly in response to the increased complexity of public policy issues, which require new approaches and ways of working. They provide an alternative to governments investing time, money and social capital in large-scale policies and programmes that may fail to achieve the expected results. Innovation labs, for instance, are dedicated spaces for investigating and experimenting through trial and error to understand better what works in public service design and delivery. They often give birth to innovative projects or take the first step in scaling successful ones. As procurement is the lifeblood of government programmes and services, such groups may have a strong focus on procurement, or even be entirely dedicated to public procurement efforts. The United States has made several efforts in this area (Box 4.15). Such spaces help procurement officials test different approaches in a controlled setting without the fear that any mistake made could diminish legitimacy and trust in the process. The knowledge and experience gained can help them more efficiently and effectively meet outcomes, which can enhance public and business trust in the system.

In addition to innovation groups such as those discussed above, some governments have created special “sandboxes” that enable innovations to be tested in environments where certain rules are relaxed. For the most part, these have been regulatory sandboxes,5 which allow businesses to test innovative products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a live environment. The sandbox framework also allows businesses to ask the government to waive or modify rules that have become unduly burdensome or are failing to achieve their objectives, sometimes on a limited or temporary basis. Governments are just starting to explore the use of sandboxes internally to create safe spaces where public sector organisations can try new things on a limited scale without the fear of breaking the rules. The results of such experiments enable governments to identify new ways of working within the rules, or to identify pain points and propose changes to rules in areas where the burden of compliance outweighs the potential benefit. Although there are few examples of public sector sandboxes, the concept does appear to be advancing, especially for tech projects including AI (Box 4.16). With approval from parliament, other policy makers and potentially the European Commission, Slovenia could pilot similar sandboxes for experimentation. These could serve specifically to promote the use of innovative procurement processes, or focus on core programmatic mission goals, with procurement as a core factor for success.6

Professionalising the procurement workforce across Europe is one of the European Commission’s top strategic procurement priorities. It involves clear and concrete action to transform public procurement into a powerful instrument in each EU country’s economic policy toolbox, leading to substantial benefits in procurement outcomes (European Commission, 2017[5]). The priority is seen as so critical that in October 2017, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on the Professionalisation of Public Procurement7 to encourage EU countries to take steps to increase the professionalism of contracting authorities (see Box 4.17).

Likewise, the OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement (OECD, 2015[6]), which all OECD member countries have adhered to, states that governments need to “develop a procurement workforce with the capacity to continually deliver value for money efficiently and effectively”.

Despite its strategic importance, governments have struggled in this area. The most prominent weaknesses in public procurement systems are lack of capability in the workforce (defined as the skills-based ability for an individual, group or organisation to meet its obligations and objectives) and lack of capacity (defined as the ability to meet obligations and objectives based on existing administrative financial, human or infrastructure resources). Challenges facing public procurement practitioners include the transition from an ordering function to a more strategic one, increasingly complex rules, the multidisciplinary nature of the profession and the lack of professionalisation (OECD, 2017[7]).

A public procurement workforce with adequate capacity and capability is crucial for achieving the strategic objectives of government organisations. Professionals who possess a wide range of skills and competencies, including negotiation, project management and risk management skills, are necessary for the successful delivery of strategic procurement initiatives (OECD, 2017[8]). Moreover, the skillset required of procurement professionals needs to be flexible, as the contexts and priorities involved in their everyday work are constantly changing. Many procurement professionals work in roles that demand high-level strategic, tactical and operational skills (OECD, 2013[9]).

The OECD has developed a checklist (OECD, 2016[10]) for the overall Recommendation, which also outlines steps that can be taken to build capacity (see Box 4.18). In addition, the European Commission has recently finalised a professional competency framework for civil servants, with a major sub-component dedicated to procurement professionalisation (see Box 4.19). These resources could assist Slovenia and other countries in strengthening procurement professionalization, which can be seen as a systemic, underlying factor hat significantly affect all other purposes of procurement identified by Slovenian officials.

A number of governments have put in place projects, initiatives or resources to enhance the capabilities and capacities of their procurement staff. The European Commission has aggregated many of these and published a library of 90 examples of good practices and tools (European Commission, 2018[11]).8 In addition, Box 4.20 provides an example of an innovative approach to professionalising the procurement of digital services from outside the European Union.

Finally, some governments have also sought to professionalise external providers, such as SMEs, to equip them with the knowledge and resources necessary to better navigate procurement processes. Box 4.21 provides an example of such an initiative from Italy that was disseminated through the European Commission’s good practice library. Such professionalisation outside government coupled with procurement professionals inside government could assist Slovenia in optimising the results of procurements and foster positive relationships across the procurement ecosystem.

OECD workshop participants co-generated ideas about sharing innovation and new ideas across government, and bringing innovation and new ideas into government from the outside. These ideas generally revolved around supporting experimentation, testing new ideas as part of the procurement process (e.g. prototyping and agile contracts), finding ways to bring attractive innovative companies into the process, and exploring alternatives to traditional procurement to bring good ideas into government. The participants agreed that such ideas were good, but stated that they were not prioritised at the top level. However, based on experience and its alignment with achieving the identified purposes of public procurement, the OECD believes that such ideas hold great promise and can represent new ways of thinking in the Slovenian public service. Doing so can help to ease tensions associated with several of the systems dilemmas discussed earlier in this report. Importantly, finding new ways to surface ideas and identify innovative companies could help improve the foundational economic challenges that Slovenia faces. For instance, building larger blanket contracts for procurement authorities to use, or holding competitive challenges, could increase competition – an issue with which the country has struggled.

One key approach to this challenge is to focus centre-of-government efforts and expertise on building rosters of, or conduits to, proven innovative companies that others in government can easily leverage to bring new approaches into the public sector. The centre of government may be particularly well placed to perform the work needed to clear a path for innovative companies. Box 4.22 provides an example of such an approach.

In addition to bringing in companies with fresh ideas, Slovenia could benefit greatly from innovative methods of procurement. Throughout interviews and workshops, different officials emphasised that all requirements for procurements need to be made explicit up front before the tendering process. However, strict adherence to this belief can lock out interesting and innovative ideas, and for some products such as software, significantly increase the risk of failure. Interviewees and workshop participants also told the OECD that agile procurements rarely occurred. In the United States, agile contracting has been introduced recently (Box 4.23), but has not always been easy or without problems (Mergel, 2016[12]).

Many governments have also completely flipped the way in which they obtain certain goods and services. In particular, many countries around the world have pursued challenges and competitions to help remedy challenges associated with a lack of fresh ideas. In these processes, instead of specific requirements being stated up-front, government officials articulate an end goal or outcome that they would like to achieve. External parties are then invited to propose their ideas for solutions that can achieve the goal. Canada’s recent policy change (Box 4.24) shows how they took proactive action at a policy level to enable such processes. A number of examples of government challenges and competitions (both programmes and specific projects) are discussed in Box 4.25, Box 4.26 and Box 4.27.

Besides bringing innovative ideas into government from external sources, it is also critical to enable ideas and innovative practices to flow and diffuse within the public sector. This can be greatly enabled through communities of practice and networks, as discussed as a priority item above. Formalised procedures focused on innovation diffusion can assist, with communities of practice perhaps serving as a vector for these mechanisms. See for example the intentional activities in Denmark around spreading learning and innovation (Box 4.28).

A number of ideas discussed during the interviews and workshops, although not prioritised like three of the items in this chapter, focused on driving the economy and enhancing competition. These generally involved encouraging companies to compete for tenders, reducing the burden and barriers to entry for SMEs, competing in international markets and attracting cross-border bids. Such actions can help drive the economy and also help ease one of Slovenia’s foundational challenges discussed earlier in this report: economic challenges stemming from the size of its market. Taking action to bring in different and diverse types of companies is important for public sector innovation broadly. Because of its complexity, public procurement can favour incumbents with track records over “lean start-ups” that might actually have the relevant innovation know-how. How can the values of public procurement be aligned with the principles of agile and iterative processes? Initiatives are needed that help put the small and agile on a level playing field with the large and the incumbent, and help them participate in public procurement processes.

A number of countries around the world have developed innovative solutions to try to tackle similar challenges. For example, the government of New South Wales, Australia has piloted ways to help small companies break into the government market (Box 4.29).

The United Kingdom has developed a digital marketplace to make it easier for businesses to engage with government and to help centralise common products and services, in order to take advantage of economies of scale. While many countries have developed digital marketplaces, the United Kingdom is unique in that theirs is “global” and open to use by other countries.

Slovenia could potentially benefit from developing a nationwide digital marketplace of its own for goods and services. Such goods and services would not necessarily need to be related to technology needs, such as in the UK example. To drive its economy, Slovenia could also consider allowing other countries, such as those in the region, to procure items from Slovenian vendors on the marketplace. To enhance competition and thereby help address challenges associated with the size of its market, Slovenia could invite cross-border listings from other countries or even explore the potential of participating as a buyer in the UK’s Global Digital Marketplace (Box 4.30).

Finally, driving the economy can also mean using the government’s purchasing power to shape the products offered by vendors and promote the strategic goals of government. Promoting social goals is considered to be one of the most important purposes of the procurement system in Slovenia, as discussed earlier in this report. Slovenia could use its procurement function to effect change and signal the government’s desire to drive social change. Victoria, Australia’s Social Procurement Framework, provides a strong example of this approach, as discussed earlier in Box 2.7.

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