The global marketplace for government contracts – for large and small business from a vast group of sectors and a diverse range of service and product offers – is a very lucrative one that your company should consider very seriously.

According to Harvard University’s Center for International Development — in their Government Procurement Survey, worldwide Government Procurement of goods and services typically accounts for 10-15% of GDP for developed countries, and up to as much as 20% of GDP for developing countries.  It is estimated that total public procurement expenditure in the EU represents around 17% of GDP.

According to the Financial Times in an article entitled « EU reviews public procurement contracts » June 8 2011 government procurement in the EU is a very large business, estimated to be worth around €1,800bn ($2,600bn).   The UK, France, Spain, Germany, Poland and Italy are responsible for about 75% of all EU public procurement, both in number of contracts and in value. The UK tops the list in value terms while France has the highest number of contracts.

The Chamber of Commerce of Grenoble provides a very good idea of the applicable legal framework for public procurement in France. Currently, the value of all contracts in France available via the public procurement system represents approximately 200 Billion Euros.

To summarize, public procurement is a public competition process applicable to public contracts awarded by the French government, and some other public bodies or authorities plus various entities and companies.

For foreign corporations though it can be difficult and time-consuming to see and review all media and publications related to contract notices which may be of interest.  Which foreign company can easily read and follow the  « Bulletin officiel d’annonces des marches publics, BOAMP –- Official Bulletin for Contract Notices, subscribe to the OJS / TED database or other relevant media authorized to publish such information?  Major groups with public procurement teams certainly can, but what about small & medium non-French corporations?

Indeed, small and medium-sized foreign companies can compete for and win French public procurement contracts, but to do so, you must rely on local French counsel to guide you through the process.

I would advise companies interested in securing public contracts in France to pursue the following initiatives.

Identify and meet public buyers.  Indeed, some contracts are negotiated privately or through an adapted procedure (the contracting authority chooses the publicity modalities).  You increase your chance to be consulted once such procedures are chosen.

Instruct a local counsel to follow new calls for tenders in your scope of activity.  You will receive a selection of monthly public tenders that could answer pre-determined criteria. Delcade delivers this service, after a thorough selection of targets (nature of the work / size / amount / location, etc.).

Prepare a complete candidature with information such as client references, company history, financial information, company’s knowhow (explain your added value and difference with other competitors), company’s chart, human & technical means.  Update it if necessary.  Your offer will have to include other administrative information and required technical presentations and your methodology.  Use the practical guide or guidelines mentioned on each form (DC4, DC6, DC7  …).

If possible, bid with other companies who could make your bid more valuable (secure the joint bid with an agreement or set up a company for that purpose such as an economic interest grouping).

You can always ask why you haven’t be retained and take the reason into account for your next candidature.

The public procurement regime in France offers overseas companies doing business here an additional excellent opportunity to create greater profit margins, or indeed establish a presence here on the basis of seeking out public contracts as an initial market entry strategy.  Indeed, should you work effectively and efficiently to identify and secure public contracts available to small and medium-sized businesses in France, your company can profit significantly from what is one of the world’s most lucrative public contracting markets.

Benoît LAFOURCADE

Co-Founder, Partner & Solicitor -
International Corporate Law & Litigation

Benoît, Delcade’s co-founder, is a Paris Bar lawyer and UK Solicitor (London).

Advisor for various embassies, working closely with the firm's team, Benoît offers his services to French and foreign companies requiring cross-cutting strategic and legal support in business law.

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