Various strategies for monitoring of public contracts exist, including periodic review meetings, inspections, reporting and third-party audits. Monitoring may be carried out by the contractor itself (including in relation to any of its subcontractors) or the public body or, in some cases, third-party audits or inspections are held (e.g. to confirm compliance with equal pay, working conditions or whistleblowing provisions).
Article 71 of Directive 2014/24/EU aims to ensure visibility and accountability within subcontracting arrangements in public contracts. Depending on the subject matter of the contract, supply chains may stretch across the globe and involve many different sectors. Gender issues may be particularly relevant for contracts with a high proportion of low-paid workers in developing countries, such as those in the textiles, food production and certain manufactured goods industries.
To verify compliance with specifications or performance under award criteria, contracting authorities may request that bidders provide a third-party label or certification. In the GRPP context, certain labels may assist companies in implementing gender equality measures and in monitoring progress. For labels or certifications to be requested in tenders, they must meet certain minimum transparency standards, be based on objective criteria and be available to all operators who meet the criteria (not, for example, only those in a particular country or region).
Award criteria determine the outcome of a tender competition and are a key tool for addressing gender issues in the delivery of public contracts. Under the EU procurement directives and financial regulation, public buyers have the freedom to define a range of qualitative criteria provided that these are linked to the subject matter of the contract and allow fair competition.
Contracting authorities must prepare tender documents for publication prior to launching the procedure. These typically comprise several documents setting out exclusion grounds and selection criteria, specifications, award criteria and contract terms, as well as the contract notice , which must be published on the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) portal if the contract value is above the EU thresholds. In addition to the explicit inclusion of GRPP criteria, tender documents may influence the gender outcomes of a tender in other ways.
‘Reserving’ a contract means that only businesses that meet the relevant conditions can bid for that particular contract. This does not mean that public authorities can favour these businesses generally or restrict the tender to only one operator. Under EU procurement law, reservations in public procurement do not explicitly relate to women-owned or women-managed businesses. Directive 2014/24/EU allows for only two types of reservations.
The 2014 EU procurement directives introduced what is known as the light regime for social, health and other specific services. The services covered include healthcare and social care, education and training, community and cultural services, and events organisation. A higher threshold and less rigid rules are applied to these services than to other fields, while contracts in some of these services can be reserved only for social enterprises under Article 77 of Directive 2014/24/EU (see "Reserved contracts").
Dividing contracts into lots can help to ensure the participation of a wide range of bidders, including SMEs and social enterprises, and potentially including more women-led businesses. It can also facilitate the use of a reservation (see "Reserved contracts"). Division into lots does not in itself promote GRPP unless additional measures such as market engagement, reservations and award criteria are used.
Directive 2014/24/EU defines six separate procedures for the award of contracts: open procedure restricted procedure competitive procedure with negotiation competitive dialogue innovation partnership design contest. While GRPP may be applied in any of these procedures, when open or restricted procedures are used, there is no flexibility to engage with bidders to refine their offers in respect of gender equality or other considerations.
Contracting authorities are free to define the subject matter of their tenders. At the pre-tender stage, you should consider how the purchase may affect women and men differently and address this in the subject matter and/or in a short description in the contract notice . There are two main reasons for incorporating gender aspects within the subject matter of the tender.
The purpose of preliminary market consultation is to obtain a clear picture of which products, works and services are available and to inform economic operators about the upcoming tender. Preliminary market consultations can be used to scope out the market capacity to deliver gender-responsive outcomes, as well as to refine the contracting authority objectives. This can be done through informal or formal consultations with potential bidders, for example through supplier engagement events, questionnaires or direct contact.
Depending on the users/beneficiaries of the procurement, needs assessment may be a strictly internal process (e.g. office furniture or equipment is purchased) or may involve external people and organisations (e.g. social housing or a civic centre is constructed or a website/application is made accessible to the public). Needs assessment may be undertaken either formally (e.g. through a questionnaire or structured consultation) or informally through conversations with users.