20 years of Microsoft at the tender-free European Commission
According to a report in Computer Weekly based on documents seen by the magazine, the European Commission has purchased large volumes of Microsoft software on six occasions since 1993 without a single public tendering process, thereby excluding potential competitors. The most recent agreement with Microsoft, covering software licences for over 36,000 PCs and supporting infrastructure at 42 European institutions, was valued at €50 million. The software included desktop operating systems, SQL Server Enterprise, email, project management and collaboration tools.
According to Computer Weekly, the European Commission has, for almost twenty years, been procuring software using special procedures intended only for extraordinary circumstances. In 1992, the Directorate-General for Informatics (DIGIT), responsible for these procurements, justified the lack of a tendering process by stating that no other supplier was able to supply the required software. Following further closed procurements in 1996 and 1999, in 2003 the Commission claimed that alternative software would be incompatible and that migration would be too burdensome. That same justification was used again in 2007 and in the recent 2011 procurements.
A spokesman for the DIGIT told Computer Weekly that guidelines on procurement had changed several times over the last 20 years and that there are a number of different procedures which can be used when procuring software. He stated that each procurement was preceded by a thorough analysis of the market situation and user requirements and that European law had been adhered to at all times. Both he and DIGIT vice president Maroš Šefčovič stressed that the Commission was not dependent on Microsoft. Microsoft itself declined to comment on the matter.