Global Revolution III
Global Revolution III, 19 and 20 June 2006
More than 200 experts from 35 countries gathered at the Law School in June 2006 for a major international conference, 'Public Procurement: Global Revolution III'.
Public procurement is the government's activity in acquiring goods and services from outside contractors – anything from paper clips to tanks - and the "Global Revolution" of the conference title refers to the massive reforms undertaken in this area in the last decade. Under the umbrella of related themes such as transparency and development, more than 60 papers explored the most important and topical issues in this field.
The conference was the third – and biggest - in a very successful series on the "Global Revolution" theme hosted by the Law School's Public Procurement Research Group. The 2006 event was co-hosted with the Public Contracts Law Program of George Washington University, USA, and was generously sponsored by Achilles Information Ltd and by Bevan Brittan LLP.
With participants from western and Eastern Europe, the United States, the Middle East, a variety of African countries and China, the third "Global Revolution" conference had a truly international feel. The conference reflected the increasingly international outlook of the Public Procurement Research Group, whose staff members hail from Nigeria, Italy, Greece and China, as well as the United Kingdom.
As with previous events, a key feature of this high-profile conference was a series of presentations of their current work by the major international institutions working on procurement. Speakers from the European Commission, World Trade Organization, World Bank, OECD and UNCITRAL all offered an overview of their ongoing activities, both in general and in the specific area of anti-corruption measures.
Many of these institutions - as well as others, such as the European Agency for Reconstruction, the European Defence Agency and OCCAR – also presented papers in the 18 parallel workshop sessions. Other speakers and delegates included many of the field's most distinguished academic scholars; national policy makers and members of Tender Boards; other procurement professionals; leading legal practitioners; and NGOs such as Transparency International.
Reform in the EU
The EU has recently reformed many of its current procurement rules to deal with issues such as electronic procurement and PPPs. It now has plans to strengthen its enforcement regime, and to extend regulation into new areas, notably concession contracts military equipment. Not surprisingly, this has created a great deal of interest in the EU regime both inside and outside the EU, and 7 of the 18 conference workshops were devoted to EU issues.
Of particular interest were papers on the European Commission's reform plans presented by three Commission officials - Matthias Petschke, who provided a general overview; Eric Sitbon, who outlined the Commission plans on remedies; and Burkard Schmidt, who offered the Commission's perspective on regulating defence procurement. Other highlights included a forum on the new "Competitive Dialogue" procedure for awarding major infrastructure contracts, and two lively workshops on social and environmental issues.
A series of workshops was also devoted to one of the most important problems of modern procurement – addressing corruption, such as bribery and collusion. Various speakers offered perspectives on this subject from their own country, and a series of papers outlined some specific new anti-corruption initiatives, ranging from use of electronic means in procurement in Brazil, to outsourcing of supplier qualification systems in Nigeria.
Lessons from the US ….
With the conference being co-hosted by George Washington University, there was a strong presence from the United States. Various speakers – including several academics, and speakers from the General Accounting Office and the US Federal Trade Commission - presented some interesting and lively papers covering. Subjects covered included emergency contracting relating to Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, and the US experience with electronic auctions.
… and reform in China
In addition, a special feature of the 2006 was the inclusion of two workshops on public procurement in China, which were co-sponsored by the University's China Policy Institute and Institute for Contemporary Chinese Studies. The workshops included an interesting mix of papers from the World Trade organization, Chinese experts, and western experts and policy makers. One focused on general reform issues, and the second on public-private partnerships, which are of great importance in China's drive to modernize and develop its public infrastructure – not least for the forthcoming Olympic games in Beijing.
Papers from Nottingham speakers
The workshop papers also included a number of presentations from current and future Nottingham staff and PhD students. From the existing staff, Professor Sue Arrowsmith presented two papers – one on framework agreements from the EC and UK perspective, and (together with Colin Maund of Achilles) one setting out a framework for analyzing the implications of the EC Utilities Directive for Corporate Social Responsibility – an issue as yet unexplored in the academic literature.
Stephen Bailey offered a paper on the relationship between judicial review and the procurement regulations in English law, whilst Sope Williams presented the results of her research into contractor exclusions in South Africa. Anna Maria La Chimia presented the findings of her work on the legality of tied aid in the EC, whilst Ping Wang offered two papers in the workshops in China, one on reform, and one on regulating state enterprises. Aris Georgopoulos gave a paper on the implications of Article 296 of the EC Treaty for integrating defence procurement.