European Commission tightens the use of CPV codes | In Principle

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European Commission tightens the use of CPV codes

A numbering system known as Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) codes has been in force across the EU since 2008. The system was designed to identify the subject matter of public contracts in various member states and thus encourage contractors from throughout the EU to bid in tenders of interest to them. For years the CPV codes fulfilled this role, but recently it was noted that contracting authorities were increasingly assigning erroneous CPV codes to contracts. Thus the European Commission decided to tighten the CPV code system. Contract announcements assigning erroneous codes will no longer be published on the TED platform (Tenders Electronic Daily supplement to the Official Journal of the EU).

Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) codes were introduced by Commission Regulation (EC) No 213/2008 of 28 November 2007 amending Regulation (EC) No 2195/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV). CPV codes play a key role in the European public procurement system, enabling the uniform designation of the subject of public contracts and making it easier for contractors to check tenders of interest to them. As the Commission has found, the CPV code is one of the most frequently used criteria for searching contract announcements on TED.

But contracting authorities began to issue erroneous CPV codes, considering only the subject matter of the contract and not the type of procurement. This violated the principle of transparency and reduced competition in tenders. According to the Commission, most contract announcements in the preceding years had been published with an incorrect main CPV code. This is the code automatically included in the title of the announcement in TED and thus is vital when potential contractors are searching for tenders.

Contractors found it harder and harder to correctly identify public contracts of interest to them, and thus EU institutions began to make improvements in the system for issuing CPV codes. In late 2019 the Commission introduced a rule (RULE = “R388”) requiring CPV codes to be strictly adjusted to the type of procurement. This obligation is applied when filling in contract notice forms on the TED platform, and is aimed at contracting authorities throughout the EU.

In public procurement, there are three types of contracts: for construction works, for services, and for supplies. Previously, specific CPV codes were generally not allocated to specific types of contracts (only codes starting with 45 were assigned to construction works). This led to issuance of CPV numbers mainly based on the subject matter of the contract, but not always properly identifying the type of contract.

The change clearly assigns the initial number in the code to the type of contract. From now on, codes should be selected as follows:

  • For supply contracts, CPV numbers starting with 00 to 44 or 48
  • For construction contracts, CPV numbers starting with 45
  • For service contracts, CPV numbers starting with 49 to 98.

The time allowed for complying with this change is relatively brief, and the effect of failing to comply with the change, and assigning an incorrect CPV code, will be that the contract announcement will not be published on the TED platform.

As of now (from 15 January 2020), all preliminary informational announcements with an improper main CPV code are being rejected. From 15 April 2020, all improperly identified contract announcements will be rejected. From 15 July 2020 this effect will apply to all other types of announcements which can be published on the TED platform (announcements on award of contracts, subcontracting announcements, etc). Thus contracting authorities have little time left to get used to the new rules for assigning CPV codes to contracts.

Cyprian Herl, Infrastructure, Transport, Public Procurement & PPP practice, Wardyński & Partners