PPI, PCP as well as innovation partnerships can be powerful mechanisms helping innovations and new technologies enter the market. These concepts are relatively new to the Romanian market and have been transposed in the national legislation in order to follow up on the European trends.
However, quite often, public procurement is not exploited to drive innovation and entrepreneurship and there are no pure innovative procurements being done for now – this can be attributed to a lack of understanding of the complex processes behind them, the small number of public institutions that have the necessary resources (both material and human) and know how to implement them and, in some case, a reluctancy to implement PPI or PCP processes because of the complicated and sometimes unclear Romanian legislation in this field.
The general feel in Romania is that taking in account the current legislation, the way it is interpreted by the Control Authorities and the very long deadlines for the public procedure to be assigned, most of the procurers are reluctant to use this procedure.
Moreover, procurement practices favouring incumbents, avoidance of risk-taking in the public sector, establishment of other priorities in the distribution of budget funds (such as pensions and wages), lack of expertise of the procurers in the case of complex procurements and a lack of institutional capacity to drive new public procurement policies are factors that hinder, to varying degrees, the provision of innovative solutions to public procurement in Romania.
Nevertheless, during the local stakeholders meetings held in Bucharest, we could observe that steps are being taken in the right direction and despite the difficulties and shortcomings mentioned above, people working in public institutions and procurement experts alike are willing to learn and improve the way they procure innovative services.
The subject of PPI/PCP was highly debated in our meetings, each stakeholder sharing points of view on this matter but also information about situations that their institutions have been confronted with. It is generally emphasized that even though there have been no true PPI procedures (like innovative partnership) there are some examples of procurements that have an innovative component or are being evaluated by their innovative characteristics.
For example, the representatives of the ELI NP project, implemented by The National Research and Development Institute for Nuclear Physics and Engineering "Horia Hulubei", have long tackled the subject of PPI in their line of work – however, each time they had to apply it in their complex procurements, they faced a lot of roadblocks and challenges and they have, in the end, preferred to go with a classic procurement procedure but with a design / innovation component. They believe that in order to boost PPI/PCP the most important aspect is the legislation – once this is made more accessible, more institutions will follow in applying PPI/PCP procedures.
On the other hand, the representatives of the private sector (consultancy firms, associations, clusters - such as the newly established Digital Innovation Smart eHub, a main stakeholder in the iBuy project) consider that their activities also play a vital role in the wider adoption of PPI/PCP since this sector is the central provider of innovative products or services that a public institution will acquire through the specific procedure. They are the main factors that stimulate growth through the research and development they provide and that will be used by public authorities once they are contracted through an PPI/PCP procedure. This is why they believe that in order to boost the innovative public procurements processes it is not enough to only look at the public sector and try to simplify the legislation and reduce bureaucracy but it is important to also look at the providers of innovation and how they fit in the bigger picture. A first step in this respect could be considered the local initiative regarding the digitalization of the public sector implemented by Insight Enterprise together with APERO (the Association for Electronic Payments in Romania) which are working to develop a collaborative platform to be used by the public institutions and individual citizens as well. This is a really innovative product that will help reduce bureaucracy, speed up the release of documents such as tax certificates (by the Authorities) and will facilitate a better communication between the Public Sector and the citizens.
Taking all of this in account is it clear that in order to move forward and develop PPI/PCP for a broader use in the Romanian procurement system is important to have a well balanced mix of legislation, policies and strategies overlooking both public and private sector (as representatives of the demanders and providers of innovation), well-trained staff and constant awareness-raising activities regarding the benefits of using PPI/PCP.