2. Using public procurement strategically in the city of Bratislava

An effective response to the needs of citizens in terms of infrastructure and services is one of the main objectives of any public procurement strategy. In Bratislava, public procurement accounted for EUR 145 million in 2019 (39% of the city’s expenditures), including around 65 million on infrastructure. Given the volumes at stake, the city administration must ensure good management of public funds to provide citizens with the best possible solutions. The economic shock related to the COVID-19 crisis generated substantial stress on subnational finance in the short, medium and long terms. Furthermore, in the Slovak Republic as in many OECD countries, subnational revenue is already and will continue to be strongly impacted due to reduced tax, tariff/fee- or asset-derived income that is sensitive to economic fluctuations and policy decisions (OECD, 2020[1]).

The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Procurement stresses the importance of developing processes to drive efficiency throughout the procurement cycle in satisfying the needs of the government and its citizens (OECD, 2015[2]). While public procurement has been considered for many years as an administrative task, in recent years, different levels of governments recognised its strategic role in the delivery of public services and the achievement of different policy objectives related to the environment, innovation and social considerations.

As described in Figure 2.1, in the “traditional” approach to public procurement, efforts are focused on the tendering phase, while the “strategic” approach puts more emphasis on the pre-tendering phase (needs assessment, market research and the development of technical specifications) and the performance of the contract. The following sections aim at assessing the efficiency of procurement processes in Bratislava and providing the city with key recommendations.

To drive efficiency throughout the procurement cycle, the OECD recommendation calls adherents to streamline the public procurement system. They should “evaluate existing processes and institutions to identify functional overlap, inefficient silos and other causes of waste. Where possible, a more service-oriented public procurement system should then be built around efficient and effective procurement processes and workflows to reduce administrative red tape and costs” (OECD, 2015[2]).

Procurement procedures in contracting authorities derive essentially from the public procurement regulatory framework and their internal directives, as is the case of Bratislava (see section 1.1.3). The procurement process currently in place includes several duplications and inconsistencies that affect its efficiency. For instance, all bidders must sign the conflict of interest form before awarding the contract to a company.

The city of Bratislava is currently in the process of updating its internal procurement directives. In the current process, different stakeholders have a clear role to play, in particular the requiring area, the procurement department (PD), the legal department and the budget department. The main objective is to reduce duplications and identify practical steps that stakeholders involved in the procurement process should follow.

The COVID-19 crisis showed that it was possible to streamline the procurement process. Given the urgent needs for some items such as masks and information technology (IT) equipment in the early stage of the virus outbreak, the procurement process was accelerated and non-essential steps were removed. Continuing such efforts to streamline the procurement processes in the internal directives would be beneficial.

Furthermore, while the internal directives aim to be applied to departments within the city, Bratislava is also planning to use them as a prototype for the other organisations that belong to the city. This would enhance the coherence of procurement processes and policies of all procurements under the responsibility of the city. At the same time, this standardisation could provide the starting point for further streamlining procurement processes across city departments and organisations.

The OECD recommends the use of digital technologies to improve the public procurement system (OECD, 2015[2]). Digitalising procurement processes implies standardisation, streamlining and integration of processes. This helps reduce administrative costs and processing times. Furthermore, it improves competition and thus value for money (EBRD, 2015[4]).

When analysing the digitalisation of procurement processes, there are two areas to consider: i) the digitalisation of internal processes; and ii) the digitalisation of procurement procedures using external platforms (e-procurement platforms).

On internal procurement processes, the system currently in place for approval and workflows in the city of Bratislava is mainly paper-based. The city is still using physical signatures and signature books to circulate documents formally. While some documents are shared via email, they do not have any legal value. This increases administrative costs and the length of procurement processes. Furthermore, it also affects data availability on procurement operations; for instance, the city does not have any functional central database for contracts and other documents such as market analysis. The PD uses Microsoft Excel files to collect specific procurement data.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures, many processes were digitalised, for instance by using digital signatures. The PD and IT departments have discussed this topic in the framework of the update of internal procurement directives. The city should therefore consider digitalising all procurement processes throughout the procurement cycle to enhance the efficiency of the procurement system. In this framework, the city could develop an action plan with a clear timeline for digitalising each phase of the procurement process.

In addition, each city organisation uses a different internal IT system to manage its procurement. It could be beneficial to consider reinforcing interoperability between the different procurement IT systems used by the city organisations and ensure homogeneous processes between them. This decision should be made following a cost-benefit analysis.

Additionally, it is widely documented that e-procurement platforms are changing the way the public and private sectors interact in OECD countries. On top of increased accountability and transparency, it has been estimated that e-procurement can reduce transaction costs by up to 12% and reduce prices paid by governments through its effects on market competition, leading to savings ranging between 5% and 25% (OECD, 2018[5]). In the Slovak Republic, there are 11 e-procurement platform providers. The city of Bratislava has been using two different e-procurement platforms, EVO and Josefine respectively. Recently, an amendment was proposed to make the use of the state platform EVO mandatory (Proebiz, 2021[6]).

The efficiency of public procurement activities requires matching demand with supply. Market analysis and needs analysis are the first step of the procurement process and have a significant impact on the performance of the contract as they affect tender design (Figure 2.2).

Needs analysis requires identifying the needs of end-users in terms of performance, functionalities, quality and quantity of the solution required. To improve public service delivery, needs analysis should follow a functional and performance-based approach. It should be oriented towards solutions and functions rather than products, services and brands available in the market. To understand the extent to which the market can meet the identified needs, this process should go hand in hand with a sound market analysis (OECD, 2018[7]).

In terms of needs analysis, there are two categories of end users to consider: the public administration for its own operations and citizens as beneficiaries of the public services provided by the entity. As mentioned in section 1.1.4, the city could further improve the collection of information on citizens’ needs. In practice, the different requiring areas within the city are the ones that perform the needs analysis. However, Bratislava is not currently following a functional approach.

In Bratislava, needs assessment translates into the development of a procurement plan, which is published in the first term of each year after being approved by the mayor. However, as discussed earlier, only 40% on average of the approved procurement plans have been executed in the last years. The COVID-19 pandemic may explain this low rate of execution of the procurement plan in 2020. However, for the previous years, this low rate could be related to the lack of capacity of requiring areas to undertake this assessment properly. The internal control department of the city identified the lack of adequate planning as one of the key challenges in relation to the procurement process of the city. The city of Bratislava should further investigate the issues related to the low rate of execution of procurement plans and enhance the capacity of requiring areas to undertake this assessment properly, using a functional approach.

As described in Figure 2.2, market analysis has a significant impact on the development of technical specifications and the performance of contracts. It aims at identifying the characteristics, capacity and capability of the supply market and their capacity to respond to priorities and policy objectives of the procuring entity.

According to the city of Bratislava, the market analysis process is under the responsibility of requiring areas and is not standardised. However, in practice, those areas can request the support of the PD to undertake it. For instance, the PD analyses the market structure (identification of potential bidders and their characteristics), whereas the requiring areas identify the products, services and public works that respond to their needs. Yet, those two tasks should be done simultaneously and in co-ordination with each other.

Furthermore, the city of Bratislava and its organisations have not yet developed a market analysis template. Such templates enable contracting authorities to streamline their procurement operations and inform their procurement decisions. Usually, information included in the market analysis is related to the market players and the solutions available in the market (Box 2.1). The lack of capacity to undertake market analysis does not only affect the estimated value of tenders (as highlighted by the internal control department) but also the performance of the contracts. Given the benefits of such tools, the city of Bratislava should consider developing a market analysis template and integrate it into its internal public procurement directive.

To engage the market and collect information, public buyers can use different tools and methods (Box 2.2). Different methods are used depending on the estimated value of the contract but no dedicated and clear guidance has been developed to support requiring areas in choosing the appropriate method. For instance, since 2018, Bratislava has been using preliminary market consultation for some tenders but no criteria have been set to use this methodology. According to the city, this kind of consultation had a positive impact on the procurement strategy adopted and thus on the procurement outcomes. For example, the preliminary market consultation for the procurement of electricity allowed Bratislava to update its pricing strategy, which has a positive impact on procurement outcomes. In 2021, Bratislava planned to organise a “meet the buyer” event to engage further with the private sector. This good practice aims at presenting the upcoming procurement opportunities, providing more information on the objectives to achieve (i.e. green or social aspects), enhancing transparency and giving the market more time to prepare for upcoming procurement opportunities. Therefore, the city of Bratislava should consider providing guidance on the methods to use to engage the market and collect information in its public procurement directive. In order to demonstrate the added value of such practices, the city of Bratislava could collect evidence on improvements related to procurement outcomes, namely in terms of quality and savings. The monitoring process could be standardised to allow further evaluation of performance in diverse procurement topics.

Aggregating needs is a key lever to enhance the efficiency of public procurement systems. This holds particularly true in times of fiscal austerity when all levels of governments are focusing efforts on rationalising public spending (OECD, 2019[9]). The main benefits of needs aggregation are: i) the achievement of economies of scale through a higher procurement volume which translates into lower prices and/or better quality; and ii) the achievement of administrative savings by reducing duplications. There are different ways of aggregating needs: through centralisation of procurements from different contracting authorities usually with the lead of a single contracting authority or by doing joint procurements between two or more contracting authorities. Those tools are identified as key efficiency tools in the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Procurement (2015[2]). The aggregation of needs requires taking into account key factors such as the existence of homogeneous needs and the impact on market conditions, namely on competition, vendor locking and SMEs.

The Slovak public procurement law enables contracting authorities to aggregate their needs through centralisation (Section 15 of the Public Procurement Act [PPA]) or joint procurement arrangements (Section 16 of the PPA).

The city of Bratislava owns 44 organisations such as the waste management company and the transport company. The public procurement system in the city is mostly decentralised. The organisations belonging to the city conduct their own procurement as they are independent contracting authorities. Due to their lack of capacity on public procurement, these organisations tend to rely extensively on external consultants to support them in conducting procurement procedures, which in turn makes the cost of procurement higher. In a 2019 survey conducted by the city of Bratislava on areas in which city organisations would consider external support, public procurement was ranked first.

In some cases, the needs of the city of Bratislava and the ones of the city organisations are aggregated and presented to the market via joint procurement arrangements. Among the procurement categories subject to the aggregation of needs are energy (such as electricity and gas), meal vouchers and office supplies. However, no data are available on the share of procurement spending they represent. City organisations have generally positive feedback on their experience and there is potential to undertake joint procurement in other categories, in particular IT goods and services. Given the benefits of needs aggregation, the city is considering furthering the use of joint procurement arrangements within city organisations in other procurement categories such as in the digital fields. However, no specific methodology has been developed to inform decisions on the potential aggregation of needs of relevant procurement categories. Furthermore, managers of the major procurement departments across city organisations used to meet on a regular basis and the procurement procedures of these organisations are approved by the city that also receives their procurement plans. Therefore, the city should consider undertaking an analysis of procurement spending and the procurement plans of each organisation. This could help identify potential procurement categories where needs aggregation could contribute to enhancing the efficiency of procurement outcomes. Regular meetings with the procurement managers of the different city organisations can also be the occasion to discuss the potential of aggregating the needs of some procurement categories.

In addition to city organisations, joint procurement arrangements can be established with other contracting authorities, including those from different levels of government. The city of Bratislava has not implemented such arrangements so far but it could explore the possibility of joining forces with surrounding municipalities (inter-municipal co-ordination), the region of Bratislava and city districts that are independent of the city to improve the efficiency of procurement operations. For instance, inter-municipal co-operation arrangements can enable the internalisation of externalities in the management of services and reap economies of scale in different areas, including utility services (water, waste, energy, etc.), transport infrastructure and telecommunication. This is particularly beneficial for municipalities within the same functional urban area (FUA) (see section 1.1.1) (OECD, forthcoming[10]). According to the city of Bratislava, legislative changes supporting inter-municipal co-operation within FUAs are needed because municipalities are currently competing against each other to obtain financial resources rather than co-operating. For example, in the Slovak Republic, at the local level, a high share of public investments are financed by European Union (EU) funds and the allocation of funds is based on the assessment of each demand. The city is currently preparing an integrated territorial strategy in co-operation with the region of Bratislava. The city could use the preparation of this strategy to explore possibilities for joining forces with the region on procurement activities to enhance the efficiency of public spending.

Collaborative procurement instruments are among the most commonly used tools to drive efficiency and cost-effectiveness. They open the door to streamlined procurement processes, reduce duplication of administrative costs and increase government purchasing power. These instruments include framework agreements and dynamic purchasing systems (DPS) (OECD, 2017[3]), which are mentioned in the Slovak PPA.

A framework agreement means an agreement between a fixed number of one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators, with the purpose of establishing the terms governing contracts to be awarded during a given period, in particular with regard to price and, where appropriate, the quantity envisaged (EU, 2014[11]). Once awarded, no additional economic operators can join a framework agreement . A DPS is somehow a framework agreement which potential suppliers can join any time during its period of validity, thus enabling further competition over time. The DPS can streamline procurement for both suppliers and authorities. The contract award process can also be conducted more rapidly than under other procedures. A DPS offers flexibility in fast-paced, constantly changing markets (OECD, 2019[12]). The use of needs aggregation coupled with those collaborative instruments enables to achieve further efficiency gains.

Aware of the benefits of those instruments, the city of Bratislava has implemented eight framework agreements (i.e. electricity, gas, meal vouchers, office supplies, etc.) and four DPS on furniture, IT hardware and public works for the street lighting system. However, no data is available on the procurement volume they represent. The city also implemented a DPS for COVID-19 related products. While no data are available on the procurement volume they represent, this strategy was beneficial given the unexpected nature of the crisis and the regular new entrants in the market for COVID-19 products such as masks. Beyond the city of Bratislava, its organisations are also starting to use DPS and framework agreements and the recent framework agreements and DPS launched by Bratislava mention the city organisations as potential beneficiaries.

In general, the decision to use those instruments depends mainly on the subject matter of the contract. The 2014 European directives mention that the DPS should be used for commonly used or off-the-shelf products, works or services which are generally available on the market (EU, 2014[11]). According to the city of Bratislava, these categories of goods, services and works are not strictly defined in the Slovak Republic and they are narrowly interpreted by the Public Procurement Office (PPO). This limits the use of DPS in the country. At the national level, the PPO could provide contracting authorities with further guidance on the procurement categories where a DPS can be used.

The city is aiming to further its use of DPS in the upcoming months. Yet, to reap the benefits of those efficiency tools, the first step for contracting authorities is to have a clear understanding of the areas of spending and the frequency of need. Currently, no comprehensive data are available on all of the areas of spending. While construction works and maintenance are considered as top areas of spending, no collaborative procurement instruments are used in these categories, except for public works for street lighting. To enhance the efficiency of its procurement outcomes, the city of Bratislava could consider undertaking a public procurement spending review to assess the amounts spent in each procurement category. This will enable the city to identify procurement categories where collaborative procurement instruments could be used by the different departments and city organisations.

How cities spend taxpayers’ money, how they deliver services and how they make strategic investment decisions makes procurement an increasingly important tool to go beyond the economic aspects of “value for money”. In the past years, the concept of value concerning public spending has been evolving to encompass a wider range of considerations such as quality, environmental and social considerations (OECD, forthcoming[10]). To ensure the integration of the concept of value for money in procurement processes, it is key to have a comprehensive understanding of the procurement cycle and choose the right qualification and award criteria. Following a proper planning phase, including needs assessment and market research, those criteria have a direct impact on competition and thus on the performance of contracts.

As highlighted in the Slovak PPA, qualification criteria should be “transparent, objective and non-discriminatory”. In the city of Bratislava, the procurement department (PD) collaborates with subject matter experts to define qualification criteria. To ensure that suppliers do not fall in one of the exclusion grounds foreseen in the PPA, the PD checks the “list of economic operators”, which contains information at the national level about those operators, to prove that there are no grounds for exclusion. In addition, contracting authorities have to check the national register of references of economic operators managed by the PPO. This register includes information on the previous experiences of economic operators contracting with the public sector. However, contracting authorities do not always fill it in appropriately. If a supplier does not get a score of 100%, the contracting authority needs to prove why and the process is burdensome – it appears that very few entities comply with this proofing exercise and prefer to put a score of 100%. To overcome this issue, the PPO should provide a clear methodology with adequate criteria for filling the past experience of suppliers. Criteria could include the level of compliance of the items purchased with the technical specifications, compliance with the initial delivery timeline, etc. Furthermore, the PPO should provide guidelines on how to use this information, including the “acceptable threshold” to contract with a supplier.

In terms of award criteria, Section 44 of the Slovak PPA offers three options: i) the best price-quality ratio (BPQR); ii) life cycle costing (LCC); and iii) the lowest price. The use of BPQR criteria enables contracting authorities to assess bids not only based on the price criterion but also on other aspects such as quality, technical merit, social and environmental characteristics, qualification and experience of supplier staff, after-sales service and technical assistance and delivery conditions. Furthermore, using the BPQR criteria along with the LCC method can also support innovation outcomes and enhance competition (OECD, 2019[13]). Box 2.3 provides more guidance on the use of BPQR criteria.

According to the PPO, the use of BPQR criteria in the Slovak Republic is one of the main challenges of the procurement system. Slovak contracting authorities still mostly rely on the lowest price criteria to award public contracts. Data provided by the PPO show that between 2016 and 2020, only 16% of procurement opportunities included BPQR criteria, representing 13% of the total procurement volume. The PPO, with the support of the OECD, is currently working on a strategy and guidelines to enhance the use of BPQR criteria in the Slovak Republic.

In the city of Bratislava, the most used methodology to assess tenders is also the lowest price. Data provided by the PPO on procedures published between 1 April 2016 and 30 May 2020 show that the use of BPQR criteria decreased in terms of both the value and the number of procedures (Figure 2.3). However, according to the PD, the data provided by PPO are overestimating the use of BPQR criteria. In addition, when contracting authorities were using the “delivery time” criterion in their tenders, they were considered as implementing the BPQR approach; this practice might explain the good performance in terms of the use of BPQR criteria in 2016. The PD mentioned that the low uptake of BPQR criteria is linked to several factors, including the willingness of requiring areas, their capacity and capabilities to adopt this approach, and market preparedness.

Furthermore, using the lowest price criterion can have an impact on the quality of the procured services and products. The city of Bratislava highlighted its willingness to implement further BPQR criteria, as this will be also reflected in the new version of the internal directives that the city is currently updating. For instance, in the draft directives and for procurement activities with an estimated value above EUR 50 000, the city aims at creating a working group comprised of the PD, the environmental department and the social department to review and discuss the relevant criteria to apply. The city of Bratislava is therefore moving in the right direction by including a section on BPQR criteria in the next edition of internal procurement directives. Additionally, Bratislava could consider raising the awareness of the different requiring areas about the importance of using BPQR criteria. For example, it could present the advantages of its use, including concrete examples of its application in the city organisations and bring in good practices from other contracting authorities in other parts of the Slovak Republic.

Furthermore, when evaluating prices in procurement procedures, it is strongly recommended to use the LCC approach, as this allows for a comprehensive understanding and quantification of the product or service relevance and usage. When procuring a product, service or work, contracting authorities have to pay a “purchase price”; however, this price is just one of the cost elements in the whole process of purchasing, owning and disposing of. LCC means considering all of the costs that will be incurred during the lifetime of the product, work or service (EC, 2020[15]). This includes: i) purchase price and all associated costs (delivery, installation, insurance, etc.); ii) operating costs, including energy, fuel and water use, spares and maintenance; iii) end-of-life costs, such as decommissioning or disposal; and iv) costs imputed to environmental externalities (OECD, 2020[16]). While this approach has never been implemented in Bratislava, it could be combined with the use of BPQR criteria. The city of Bratislava should consider assessing the opportunity of adopting an LCC approach in its procurement operations with significant operating and end-of-life costs. This could entail developing tailored pilot projects to test the LCC methodology and familiarise practitioners and requiring areas with this concept.

The value that procurement can deliver hinges on the ability to generate competition between businesses. International institutions such as the EU and OECD actively encourage the use of competitive tendering to enhance value for money and innovation, while ensuring that the use of taxpayer funds is free from corruption and other integrity breaches (OECD, 2018[17]). Furthermore, as mentioned earlier (see section 2.1.1), there is also clear evidence on the impact of the use of electronic platforms on the competition.

Competition for a specific contract depends on different parameters, including: i) the procurement method used; ii) the tender documentation (including award and qualification criteria and technical specification); iii) the size of the contract and the adoption of allotment strategies; and iv) the deadline for submitting bids.

In terms of procurement procedures above the threshold, according to the city of Bratislava, the vast majority were launched via a competitive process (open tenders, competitive dialogue and design contests). In 2019 and 2020, there were less than five direct awards and only one restricted tender. The average number of bidders above the EU threshold has increased since 2018, moving from 1.75 bidders in 2018 to 5.44 bidders in 2020. However, the internal control department highlighted contract fragmentation, which reinforces the recommendation on enhancing needs analysis and the planning phase.

All procurement opportunities below the threshold have to be published in the official journal. For low-value contracts (below EUR 70 000 for goods and services, EUR 180 000 for public works, EUR 260 000 for the procurement of special services), the previous Slovak PPA mandated contracting authorities to ask for three quotes from companies in order to award a contract. However, the new PPA does not provide any specific guidance. Despite this change, contracting authorities keep using the three quotes rule in their procurement operations and directives. Since 2018, to enhance further competition, the city of Bratislava went beyond the legal requirements and is targeting five quotes on average. The city should therefore continue its efforts to enhance competition for below threshold contracts.

As mentioned earlier (see section 2.1.2) improving access and enhancing competition is also linked to the time that potential suppliers have to submit their bids. Contracting authorities should carefully choose the number of advertising days (or submission deadline) so that interested suppliers have sufficient time to be informed and prepare their bids. While the PPA sets the minimum number of days for bid submission, the adequate number of days will depend on the complexity of the procurement operation. Therefore, market analysis is pivotal to set an adequate submission deadline, as contracting authorities can understand the specificities of the relevant market and the time it will require to prepare and submit a bid. Based on information from the zIndex platform, an NGO initiative that intends to evaluate the quality of contracting authorities in the Slovak Republic, the analysis of a sample of 28 tenders showed that for 43% of them, the initial submission deadlines were extended (zIndex, 2020[18]). This fact highlights the need to reinforce market analysis and the capacity to define an adequate submission deadline.

Public procurement is a crucial pillar of service delivery for governments, affecting citizens’ lives in areas ranging from energy efficiency to health services. Because of the sheer volume of spending it represents (12.6% of gross domestic product [GDP] in OECD countries in 2019 (OECD, 2021[19])), well-governed public procurement plays a major role in fostering public sector efficiency and establishing citizens’ trust. In addition, governments are increasingly using public procurement as a strategic tool for achieving complementary policy goals such as environmental protection, innovation, job creation and the development of SMEs (OECD, 2019[13]). The strategic role of public procurement to achieve these policy goals translates into the development and implementation of dedicated strategies and policies (Figure 2.4).

The OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement contains guiding principles to assist governments in achieving the right balance between the primary procurement objective and complementary policy objectives so that public procurement systems support the achievement of broader outcomes (OECD, 2015[2]). Regions, cities and rural areas are well placed to enable the strategic use of public procurement through local networks and actions that complement national frameworks. They are also the places where trade-offs between different objectives are felt the strongest since residents can directly experience the local benefits of such policies (OECD, 2020[20]).

Using procurement in a strategic way is a relatively recent concept in the city of Bratislava. However, recognising the importance of its purchasing power, the city is willing to advance the strategic use of public procurement.

The COVID-19 crisis reinforced the need to transition towards greener and more inclusive economies to build a better future for citizens. All levels of government, including cities, have a responsibility in this transition and could use the appropriate tools and mechanisms to achieve these goals.

In this context, Bratislava is using the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to prepare its new city strategy (see section 1.2.1). Bratislava is committed to producing its voluntary local review on SDG implementation at the city level. Furthermore, the city is participating in the URBACT project Global Goals for Cities, which aims to elaborate an integrated action plan to implement the SDGs. This URBACT project supports the development of the new city strategy. More specifically, this project aims at integrating the 2030 agenda and its targets in policy planning by designing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing appropriate measures. However, Bratislava is not using procurement as a tool to achieve the SDGs. The city could benefit from introducing, for example, sustainability criteria in future procurement processes.

Bratislava is also committed to climate action since 2008. This commitment translated into the development of a strategy on adaptation to climate change in 2014, with an action plan for 2017-20. The city’s environmental agenda will be supported by the integrated territorial investments (ITI) under the new EU programming period (2021-27). Bratislava is focusing on climate adaptation and mitigation measures, as well as the creation of a new protected floodplain forest area around the Danube River. In addition, Bratislava has launched a circular economy strategy in March 2021.

Public procurement can be leveraged to achieve sustainability in line with the strategic vision of the city. Different cities across the globe have recognised the strategic role of public procurement to achieve these goals. For instance, in 2018, Groningen, the Netherlands, identified procurement as one of its priority areas to develop its sustainable and circular vision. City employees are being trained to use green public procurement (GPP) for purchasing in a circular way (OECD, 2020[21]). In Valladolid, Spain, the city has approved Municipal Ordinance 1/2018 to Promote Social Efficient Procurement: Strategic, Exhaustive and Sustainable. The ordinance includes environmental dimensions, entailing that the subject and pricing of municipal contracts should consider life cycle criteria or the most innovative, efficient and sustainable solutions. Expected impacts are related to reducing air pollution, using recycled material and promoting recycling (OECD, 2020[22]).

While the city of Bratislava has not clearly identified public procurement as a strategic lever to achieve sustainability, it could leverage the potential of public procurement and use specific mechanisms described in Figure 2.5 such as award criteria and technical specifications. Those mechanisms are also foreseen in the Slovak PPA.

Furthermore, since 2020, a target of 6% of tenders (above and below threshold) with social elements have been introduced in the Slovak Republic for all contracting authorities. However, despite the enabling regulatory framework, the use of such mechanisms in practice to achieve environmental and social objectives remains relatively limited. Aware of those challenges, the PPO prepared a set of guidelines for the implementation of social, green and innovative public procurement in 2017 and a strategy on social procurement in 2021.

The city of Bratislava started implementing some of these mechanisms in 2018. Since then, it aims at integrating more environmental and social considerations in procurement processes when launching new procedures. However, no data are available on the share of procurement integrating green or social aspects. The draft of the upcoming internal directives is already including specific policies on public procurement such as those related to “responsible procurement” (which includes green and social aspects). The city of Bratislava should pursue its efforts to mainstream sustainability in its procurement operations and ensure that all of the mechanisms to embed sustainability in procurement activities are clearly reflected in the internal directives.

Furthermore, the environmental and social departments are collaborating with the PD, especially when it comes to their own procurement and they are committed to enhancing the use of strategic procurement in their procurement opportunities or those under their supervision. For instance, the environmental department sets key performance indicators (KPIs) on GPP for the waste management company. However, there is no direct and institutionalised co-operation between the environmental and social departments with the required areas such as the transport department. As mentioned in section 2.1.4, in the draft of new internal directives, for procurement activities with an estimated value above EUR 50 000, Bratislava aims at creating a working group comprised of the PD, the environmental department and the social department to review and discuss the relevant award criteria. The knowledge of those departments should be further leveraged in the internal directives. Their engagement should not be limited to defining award and qualification criteria but should cover all of the mechanisms aiming at embedding sustainability in procurement operations, such as technical specifications, qualification criteria and the use of LCC.

The capacity of the procurement workforce to support the strategic use of public procurement should also be considered (OECD, 2015[2]). In this context, different cities such as Barcelona committed to providing council staff with dedicated training on sustainable procurement (EC, 2016[23]). Different stakeholders within the city of Bratislava called for further capacity-building activities to advance the environmental and social agenda. In order to do so, the city of Bratislava could consider providing training activities to different stakeholders of the public procurement system on the use of public procurement to achieve the sustainability agenda.

Embedding sustainability in procurement processes requires engaging the market. Different stakeholders in the city of Bratislava perceive the readiness of the market as one of the main challenges in the uptake of more strategic public procurement. In this regard, some initiatives have already been launched, such as the co-operation of the social affairs department with the social entrepreneurship alliance and the planning of a conference on socially responsible procurement. The city of Bratislava could consider organising further activities with the private sector to raise the awareness of economic operators and advance its vision in terms of sustainable procurement.

As in most of the EU-OECD countries, the Slovak economy relies heavily on SMEs, which represent more than 70% of employment and 55% of value-added in the country. SMEs are active in different sectors where public procurement can play an important role (Figure 2.6). Data provided by the PPO show that on average between 1 April 2016 and 30 May 2020, 69% of procedures were awarded to SMEs, representing not even half of the total procurement volume (40%).

Measures and tools used by governments to enhance SME development include financial measures, allotment strategies and administrative simplification.

On financial measures, the average payment deadline in the city of Bratislava is 30 days, which is in line with EU directives. In addition, in line with internal good practices, the Slovak PPA enables the direct payment of subcontractors and the use of advance payment. The use of advance payments is particularly relevant when the execution of a contract is relatively long. This affects smaller firms in particular as it can impact their liquidity (OECD, 2018[24]). However, in practice, advanced payments are never used in the city of Bratislava. In line with the regulatory framework, the city could analyse the relevance of integrating advance payments in its internal directives for specific types of contracts.

Section 46 of the Slovak PPA also provides the possibility to require a bid bond from bidders. For above threshold tenders, bid bonds should not exceed 5% of the estimated value of the contract and must not be higher than EUR 500 000. For below threshold tenders, the bid bond should be less than 3% of the estimated value of the contract and less than EUR 100 000. As Bratislava is aware of the impact of bid bonds on the level of participation of economic operators, in particular of SMEs, in its procurement operations, it rarely requires bidders to provide a bid bond.

One of the main measures used to enhance SME access to public procurement opportunities is the implementation of an allotment strategy, which the city of Bratislava is applying. The zIndex platform shows that 17% of a sample of 46 tenders included an allotment strategy in 2020 (zIndex, 2020[18]). Based on these encouraging results, the city could further expand its allotment strategies in its procurement operations. Furthermore, as described in section 2.1.3, the city is using more and more DPS. The use of DPS improves accessibility for SMEs throughout the duration of the contract (NHS, 2021[26]).

Additionally, as mentioned in section 2.5.1, the city of Bratislava goes beyond the regulatory framework on transparency obligations and also publishes low-value contracts. Given the size of low-value contracts, this good practice enhances competition and improves procurement opportunities for SMEs.

Innovation in the European public procurement context means “‘the implementation of a new or significantly improved product, service or process, including but not limited to production, building or construction processes, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations inter alia with the purpose of helping to solve societal challenges or to support the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” (EU, 2014[11]). Public procurement for innovation has the potential to improve productivity and inclusiveness if used strategically as targeted, demand-side innovation policies to meet societal needs. For example, it can anticipate future investments to address existing or future societal challenges; or it may allow potential vendors to enter the market with new, innovative goods or services, thus encouraging innovative solutions to pressing challenges (OECD, 2017[27]). In addition, the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way people live and work and provided an opportunity to upscale innovation and the use of digital tools in cities (OECD, 2020[28]). Using public procurement for innovation could help Bratislava address the impacts of the pandemic, future shocks and global megatrends improve service delivery and spur economic growth.

Bratislava has developed innovation activities and partnerships to promote innovation capacity with other public agencies, private firms, not-for-profit organisations and city residents/resident associations. However, according to the OECD/Bloomberg Philanthropies survey on innovation capacity in cities , Bratislava did not have an explicit innovation strategy (OECD/Bloomberg, 2018[29]). In addition to its new strategy underway, Bratislava is currently in the process of developing an innovation strategy focusing on how to use innovation to promote sustainable development and make Bratislava smarter in the COVID-19 context. The city could consider highlighting in the innovation strategy the strategic role that public procurement could play, considering its impact on economies and societies.

According to the city, the innovativeness of businesses in Bratislava is relatively low. As cities are at the forefront of public service delivery, they are also laboratories for innovative products and solutions aiming at enhancing citizens’ well-being (OECD, forthcoming[10]). Moreover, innovation at the local level is closely connected to the smart city agenda of cities since the “smart city” concept initially referred to initiatives that use digital and information and communication technology (ICT)-based innovation to improve the efficiency of urban services and generate new economic opportunities in cities (OECD, 2020[30]; forthcoming[10]). These challenges highlight the pressing need to develop and implement public procurement procedures that spur innovation at the local level.

Public procurement for innovation is an opportunity to solve public sector challenges that span across different levels of governments and sectors. Consequently, public procurement does not only prioritise "governance"-related issues; it aims to help governments understand a complex system comprised of innovation value chains, which have local, national and international ramifications. Taking into account the challenges and obstacles concerning the development and implementation of strategic procurement for innovation, the OECD has identified nine action areas that should be present in any sound procurement for innovation agenda. As described in Table 2.1, many of these actions can be implemented by subnational governments given their role and autonomy. Strategic procurement for innovation combines issues that usually fall under the remit of different governmental bodies both at the local and national levels (e.g. policy making, purchasing, budgeting and scientific research).

An adequate public procurement regulatory framework can make a substantial contribution to the development of innovative solutions. For instance, contracting authorities under the EU public procurement directives (EC, n.d.[31]) have the possibility to implement the following procedures:

  • Pre-commercial procurement (PCP): This can be used by procurers when there are no near-to-the-market solutions yet that meet all of the procurers’ requirements and new R&D is needed to get new solutions developed and tested to address the procurement need.

  • Public procurement of innovative solutions (PPI): This can be used by procurers when challenges of public interest can be addressed by innovative solutions that are nearly or already in small quantity on the market.

  • Innovation partnership, which allows for the combination of research and procurement.

However, none of these procedures have been used in procurement processes in Bratislava and the Slovak PPA and policies only mention the innovation partnership. In order to provide a more comprehensive and flexible framework for innovation, the PPO could clarify the possibility of using all three procedures in the PPA.

Among its medium-term priorities, in 2019, the city established a Living Lab initiative (Bratislava City Lab) to test products and services in a realistic environment, including piloting new innovative technologies and processes across the city hall and city organisations. This initiative will allow for testing them in the live environment to support innovation and improve the quality and effectiveness of city services. The city already implemented four City Lab pilot projects, including one on implementing parking sensors and sensors for detecting urban heat islands. The pilots are financed by the participating companies, which means that no public procurement activities are involved yet. However, at the implementation phase, the city will need to use procurement processes to procure adequate solutions using a competitive process. To advance its innovation agenda, the city of Bratislava should consider integrating the dedicated innovation procedures mentioned in the PPA in its internal procurement directives and explore the possibility of spurring innovation in procurement operations when possible, even through pilot projects. The PD could also collaborate with the innovation team of the city of Bratislava and use their expertise to promote joint projects.

Furthermore, the working group mentioned in the internal directives to review and discuss the relevant award criteria in procurement operations does not include the innovation team, which the city could consider involving in this working group.

Embedding innovation in public procurement also requires changing the way public procurers are working and raising the awareness of different stakeholders on the key role of procurement in enhancing the uptake of innovation. Traditionally, public procurement tenders are drafted to procure specific goods and services, which implies that a solution has already been chosen. A shift is essential in the way public procurement tenders are drafted to reflect better the challenges faced by the contracting authorities and to open the possibility of accepting new solutions from the market. Different city stakeholders have identified this traditional approach as a key challenge to advance Bratislava’s innovation agenda through public procurement and to implement the smart cities agenda. As requiring areas are highly involved in the procurement process, namely through the needs and market analysis but also in the development of technical specifications, the city of Bratislava could consider developing a tailored programme to raise awareness and build capacity on the use of procurement to spur innovation.

Another important field of action could target digital strategies and approaches. Digital transformation is key to enhancing the productivity and efficiency of public administration. The city of Bratislava has identified the digital transformation of city services as a key medium-term priority. This digital transformation includes the development of a digital account for residents, the transformation of city organisations and the modernisation of city services. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated investments in digital infrastructures and equipment such as mobile phones, laptops and servers. This digital transformation requires several procurement processes (e.g. in terms of IT services, equipment and hardware).

The IT department, which is leading the digital transformation of the city, highlighted vendor lock-in as a challenge. A lock-in situation will usually imply that procurement documents for the next contract related to the ICT system causing the lock-in will contain references to the brand name of that system. According to a European Commission (EC) study, EUR 1.1 billion is lost every year in the public sector due to this issue and its impact on competition (EC, 2013[32]). In 2013, the EC published a guide for the procurement of standards-based ICT, which looks into several areas including the assessment of standards, the need for an ICT strategy, the key role of market engagement, etc. (EC, 2013[33]). Given the important digital transformation that Bratislava is currently undertaking, it could be beneficial to develop an ICT procurement strategy that takes into account different risks including vendor lock-in.

In many OECD countries, public procurement has been used as a strategic tool to achieve different policy objectives, supporting governments in advancing their strategic agenda. This requires having a measurement framework in place to assess progress and achievements. The OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement highlights the need to drive performance improvements through evaluation of the effectiveness of the public procurement system, from individual procurements to the system as a whole, at all levels of government where feasible and appropriate (Box 2.4) (OECD, 2015[2]).

The city of Bratislava does not undertake any regular evaluation to assess existing processes and institutions and to identify any functional overlaps, inefficient processes, silo approaches and other causes of waste. However, the update of the public procurement internal directives aims at streamlining the procurement process and enhancing its efficiency.

Monitoring and evaluating procurement systems usually requires developing KPIs. KPIs aim at analysing data based on performance objectives and setting actionable goals for improvement (Oxford College of Procurement and Supply, n.d.[34]). The first step is therefore to set SMART objectives, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related goals (OECD, 2019[12]).

Regarding the evaluation of individual tenders, the city of Bratislava uses a limited number of KPIs: the average number of bidders per procurement opportunity and savings. However, the environmental department is using KPIs related to GPP, both for their own procurement and for one of the waste management company under its supervision. Despite the limited number of KPIs developed by Bratislava so far, they are supporting the development of targeted procurement strategies, which can be considered a good practice. To allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the system’s performance, the city of Bratislava should consider defining a larger set of objectives and outcomes and implement more indicators in line with its strategic objectives and with the legal framework. Table 2.2 provides examples of relevant KPIs that are used by contracting authorities on individual procurement operations and that can be aggregated at the contracting authority level.

Furthermore, according to the zIndex platform that publishes data on the score obtained by different public entities on various public procurement aspects, the city of Bratislava had a score of 75% in 2020 which is relatively good (the third place in the category of large cities behind the city of Prešov (77%) and the city of Poprad (76%) (zIndex, 2020[18])).

In addition to assessing the procurement system from individual procurements to the system as a whole, the city of Bratislava could consider assessing the contribution of public procurement to the strategic agenda of the city. Procurement KPIs should be included in the overall city objectives’ framework. For instance, for strategies related to sustainability, the city of Bratislava could include KPIs related to green or social elements in procurement operations. For example, the city of Oslo, Norway, aims to be a green, inclusive and smart city, which has also made it a champion of sustainable procurement. Oslo has been pursuing sustainable procurement actions for many years and has placed a particular focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing responsible and circular purchasing, and increasing the share of sustainable food (Procura+ Network, n.d.[35]).

The measurement of relevant KPIs requires implementing an adequate information system with relevant data (OECD, 2019[36]). In the city of Bratislava, some indicators can be measured using data from the e-procurement platforms. However, some of them require an adequate internal information system able to collect multiple procurement data across all departments for several years. Currently, the city of Bratislava is using Microsoft Excel files to gather public procurement data. After deciding on its procurement KPIs, the city of Bratislava could consider designing a more sophisticated internal system able to collect relevant procurement data to measure the desired KPIs.

The capacity and capabilities of the public procurement workforce are pivotal for the effective implementation of public procurement processes and thus for the delivery of public services to citizens. The OECD experience shows that the most prominent weakness in public procurement systems is the workforce’s lack of capability (defined as the skills-based ability for an individual, group or organisation to meet 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 for public procurement practitioners include the transition from an ordering function to a strategic one; increasingly complex rules; the multidisciplinary nature of the profession; and the lack of professionalization (OECD, 2019[13]). Such challenges are also shared by the city of Bratislava, which faces a lack of educated and experienced procurement experts.

To enhance the capacity and capabilities of the procurement workforce, countries may adopt different approaches, such as recognising public procurement as a specific profession, developing certification frameworks and promoting regular procurement training (OECD, 2019[13]). Based on a 2019 OECD survey, the Slovak Republic does not recognise public procurement as a specific profession. Furthermore, there are no specific entry requirements or certifications to work in the public procurement field. According to the city of Bratislava, procurement officials should preferably have an educational background in law or the economy. In addition, no consistent procurement competencies have been integrated into the job profiles of officials involved in procurement operations. Based on stakeholder mapping, in co-operation with the human resources department, the city could identify key procurement and soft competencies for the different categories of officials involved in procurement operations (see Figure 1.3).

In this regard, Bratislava could be inspired by the ProcurCompEu competency framework developed by the EC. The implementation of this framework is derived from the EC recommendation on the professionalisation of public procurement. The framework includes 30 competencies divided into 6 categories: 3 procurement-specific (i.e. needs assessment, tender documentation, contract management, etc.) and 3 soft competencies (i.e. project management, organisational awareness, stakeholder relationship management, etc.) (Figure 2.7). The EC also provides a self-assessment tool that public procurement professionals and organisations can use to assess their levels of proficiency and organisational maturity in the competencies identified in the competency matrix.

The city of Bratislava does not have any mandatory training for officials in charge of procurement activities. In order to enhance their capabilities, the city could consider developing a structured training programme for its procurement officials including a minimum number of training programmes each year. This would be even more relevant given: i) the tendency for increased centralisation and the trend for aggregation of needs within the city and its organisations; and ii) Bratislava’s ambition to advance its sustainability agenda.

As described in the previous section, in addition to city officials working in the PD, different officials within the city are confronted with public procurement issues. For instance, subject matter experts working in different departments of the city are in charge of developing technical specifications and are responsible for contract management. No formal and regular training on public procurement is available to those officials.

As mentioned, the city has been working on updating the internal directives on procurement through an inclusive approach. Given the complexity of the Slovak PPA, these directives are key to enhancing the capacity of all officials involved in the procurement process of the city. According to the PD, once the internal directives have been finalised and approved by the mayor, all officials within the city involved in public procurement will receive training on the new directive. Bratislava could consider going beyond the internal directives and provide general training programmes on public procurement covering different topics throughout the procurement cycle to all officials involved in procurement processes.

The reinforcement of the capabilities of all officials involved in procurement operations could also be supported by the development of standardised documents and templates (OECD, 2016[38]). In this regard, across the EU and OECD, many national and subnational governments such as Barcelona, Spain, and Edinburgh, United Kingdom, have developed specific procurement templates. When not provided by the upper-level government, local governments can also develop their own templates. For instance, the city of New Orleans, United States, publishes all procurement forms, templates, policies and procedures on line (Box 2.5).

In 2020, the legal department of the city of Bratislava started to develop standardised documents, such as templates for below-threshold contracts and templates for DPS. The city also developed a list of “must-have provisions” in contracts. Bratislava could enlarge its efforts by developing additional procurement templates and standardised documents such as those related to market analysis, needs analysis, evaluation of tenders, etc. Once developed, they could be integrated into the internal public procurement directives and be published.

Transparency is key for the well-functioning of the public procurement system, it is also central to promoting good governance in the public sector. It fosters accountability, integrity and ensures access to information while enabling the participation of diverse stakeholders. The OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement calls on “Adherents to ensure an adequate degree of transparency of the public procurement system in all stages of the procurement cycle” (OECD, 2015[2]).

However, transparency is not limited to publishing information and data on public procurement. It should also ensure the availability of information to different stakeholders in a user-friendly format. Like many regulatory frameworks across the globe, the Slovak Republic includes transparency as a key principle of its PPA, together with the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination of economic operators, proportionality, and economy and effectiveness.

Public procurement data of the city of Bratislava can be found on different sources: the website of the PPO, the e-procurement platform Josefine, the EKS electronic contracting system used by the city to place orders and the website of the city of Bratislava (City of Bratislava, 2020[40]). A dedicated webpage on the website of the city provides a single gateway as it includes the links towards all of these platforms.

The PPO website makes it possible to filter the information for each contracting authority by providing “a contracting authority profile”. For each of these profiles, the website provides information such as identification details, the list of tender notices, a list of contracts, etc. However, it is not possible to find the estimated value of contracts.

The e-procurement platform Josefine used by Bratislava does not cover the whole procurement cycle, as it only provides information related to the tendering phase. This platform therefore only includes information on ongoing tenders, such as its identification number, the Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) code used, the estimated value of the contract (although this section is rarely filled), the deadline for submitting bids, the type of procedure, the inclusion of lots, etc.

The third platform used by the city of Bratislava is the EKS platform used for below-threshold procurement of common goods and services. However, this platform does not enable specific qualification criteria and other award criteria than the lowest price. The system is anonymous, in the sense that bidders do not know for which contracting authority they are submitting a bid and contracting authorities do not know who the bidders are. This platform makes it possible to award a contract rapidly as bidders have a deadline of three working days to submit their offer. However, according to the city of Bratislava, this system is rarely used because there are issues with the selected suppliers in terms of contract performance, as the awarded supplier is only known after the signature of the contract. Furthermore, the website of the city of Bratislava includes a section on “Budget and management”, where it is possible to find the budget approved for 2020-22. This document also provides relevant information to different stakeholders on the strategic orientation of the city in terms of spending areas and amounts. However, the information is provided in portable document format (PDF), which is not user-friendly. For the years 2016-19, an “open data” tool shows the budget expenditures of the city. The table below indicates where the public procurement information on the city of Bratislava is available.

While all these platforms provide a wealth of information, they do not allow citizens and stakeholders to explore the data in a user-friendly format following the budget cycle. It is difficult to match the budget published on the city website and the related procurement spending. The city of Bratislava is therefore planning to improve the user-friendliness of procurement data. For instance, the city of Montreal, Canada, has implemented the open contracting partnership standard, which enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the procurement process by defining a common data mode and provides the public with a large variety of information, which can be filtered by date, procurement volume, authorising body and sector (City of Montreal, 2021[41]). The city of Bratislava could therefore consider providing procurement stakeholders, including citizens, with data on procurement spending in a similar user-friendly format. This data could be filtered by year, procurement category and procurement method. It could also include information on planned data and real spending.

Bratislava does not publish procurement plans, even though these can be considered as a key tool to engage the market by providing visibility on the upcoming needs of the city. In terms of contract performance, citizens do not have access to information such as schedules and milestones of the implementation of procurement processes or physical progress reports. The need to access procurement information holds particularly true for large infrastructure projects impacting the daily life of citizens such as those related to mobility. The city could therefore consider publishing procurement plans and information on the performance of contracts to enhance transparency and citizens’ trust.

Furthermore, in the Slovak PPA, the publication of public procurement opportunities depends on procurement thresholds. For above EU threshold, it is mandatory to publish procurement opportunities in the European Journal. For below-threshold, depending on the estimated value, there are two different rules: i) for below-limit contracts (i.e. above EUR 70 000 for goods and services), procurement opportunities should be published in the Slovak Journal; ii) for low-value contracts (below EUR 70 000 for goods and services), there is no obligation to publish. In line with good practices, the city of Bratislava also voluntarily publishes low-value contracts in the Slovak Journal.

Public procurement is a high-risk area due to the financial volumes at stake, the multitude of stakeholders and sectors involved. The nature of the risks affecting the procurement system throughout the procurement cycle ranges from integrity and efficiency to environmental and social risks (OECD-HAICOP, 2019[42]).

Applying risk management frameworks to public procurement activities is crucial to inform procurement decisions and to implement mitigation measures that can support cities in better providing public services and achieving their objectives. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted important deficiencies in risk management assessments, including in public procurement. Many governments, including local ones, are working towards further embedding risk management in their operations (OECD, forthcoming[10]). In the city of Bratislava, there is no formal risk management assessment on procurement activities to inform procurement strategies. However, risks may be discussed at the individual procurement level when possible.

The internal control department of the city identified several challenges and risks related to public procurement, such as tender fragmentation, lack of compliance with the procurement directives, issues with the estimation of contracts and with the planning. This department developed a risk management strategy, which is used to plan inspections. Bratislava could therefore benefit from putting in place a comprehensive risk management strategy for its procurement operations. Other cities in OECD countries, such as the city of Greater Geelong, Australia, have developed such strategies and integrated them in their procurement policies (City of Greater Geelong, 2020[43]).

Regarding integrity risks, public procurement is one of the government activities that is the most vulnerable to corruption. In addition to the volume of transactions and the financial interests at stake, corruption risks are exacerbated by the complexity of the process, the close interaction between public officials and businesses, and the multitude of stakeholders (OECD, 2016[44]). Integrity breaches have direct and indirect costs, affecting the quantity and quality of public services provided to citizens. Integrity risks can occur throughout the procurement cycle, from the needs assessment to the conclusion of the contract. Specific attention is required at the local level, as citizens have more interactions with government representatives at this level (Schöberlein, n.d.[45]).

In 2020, the Slovak Republic ranked 60th out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (in 2019, it ranked 59th) (Transparency International, 2019[46]; 2020[47]). At the national level, the PPA includes provisions aiming at safeguarding the integrity of the system. For instance, a section is dedicated to conflicts of interests (Section 23) and a code of ethics for economic operators has been developed to preserve the public interest principles of public procurement, and safeguarding competition. This code of ethics also applies to subcontractors and other entities involved in the public procurement process (Public Procurement Office, 2015[48]).

At the local level, the city of Bratislava has developed its own code of ethics for all its employees and is planning to update it by the end of 2021. This code includes targeted provisions for high-risk areas such as public procurement. However, there are currently no initiatives at the city level to enhance integrity in the public procurement system. The city could consider raising the awareness of city officials and external stakeholders including civil society organisations and business representatives about integrity.


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