Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic has said that Croatia could get a new law on public procurement as early as May, which will make public procurement procedures more transparent, fairer and simpler.

"I hope that by May we will have the final version of the law and that we will adopt it," Panenic said at a conference on public procurement organised jointly by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) and the Economy Ministry.

Panenic said that currently public procurement was not sufficiently transparent.

"We are trying to create conditions to make the economically most favourable price one of the basic criteria. That will change the responsibility of ordering parties who will have to be able to recognise and define what a good product is. The lowest price is history. When we talk about the lowest price, we still want a low price but we also want quality," said Panenic.   

He said the new legislation was expected to result in a decrease in complaints regarding the quality of the work performed and a simpler bidding procedure. Under the new law, bidders will no longer be requested to prove their competencies in advance, but rather after the selection procedure. Also, the new law will be aimed at facilitating appeals procedures in cases of disputes.

"We especially want to prevent the fixing of public procurement. Such a law can change a lot and I expect a lot of it," said Panenic.

He added that work on the law would continue even after its adoption so that it could be fine-tuned if necessary.

HGK president Luka Burilovic said that the annual value of public procurement in Croatia was around HRK 42 billion, or one-third of the state budget. The share of public procurement in GDP is close to 13%.

"Around 15% of GDP is lost in public procurement procedures due to corruption," Burilovic said, warning that corruption was very much present in public procurement procedures and that Croatian bidders were often put at a disadvantage compared to foreign bidders and were often excluded from public procurement procedures.

He said that those problems were partly due to legislation as well as due to the lack of information on the part of ordering parties and bidders.

Burilovic also presented a new HGK service, an on-line catalogue of Croatian products offering information on Croatian producers and their products, which he said should help increase the share of small and medium-sized businesses in public procurement procedures.

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