In every business and industry, there are rules that must be followed. Some are basic and easy to understand. Others can be a bit more complex.
Providing products and services under public contacts in Sweden requires a detailed understanding of five main principles that are based on EU directives and basic principles of union law. The wordings of the general principles are very straightforward. However, as AmCham Sweden members and US Embassy representatives learned at the offices of Baker McKenzie in Stockholm on March 25, there are many exceptions. To further complicate matters, judges who preside over cases when companies challenge contracts must continuously be educated to keep up with the latest rules of law.
Public procurement is one of the main areas of focus for AmCham Sweden this year, and according to Andrea Sundstrand, Doctor of Law at the University of Stockholm, new principles and directives are constantly being added that apply across the EU. “However, Sweden has chosen to go outside EU jurisdiction in some instances,” Sundstrand explained. “This has been done to allow the country to open up competition so the best companies can deliver the best products and services.”
The five general principles cover the areas of equal treatment, non-discrimination, openness, proportionality and mutual recognition. Morvarid Dorkhan Nilsson, a lawyer and partner at Baker McKenzie, says these principles are always top of mind when working with companies who challenge decisions regarding the awarding of contracts, or that have chosen to file damages. “While it can be difficult to receive damages, there are review processes in place that address cases where breaches in the principles have occurred,” Nilsson says.
“Companies can file complaints with the European Commission or the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman,” Nilsson continues. “The office of the Chancellor of Justice is another option as well.”
In any case, knowing the ins and outs of the public procurement process is vital for companies who compete for contracts. “The trick is not to let the law overwhelm you,” says Charlotte Trelde, Public Bid & Bid Manager at Elanders Sweden AB, a printing company. After working for many years with contract agreements that Elanders has entered into, Trelde offered some straightforward advice to the audience based on her experiences with public procurement.
“The general principles are designed to give everyone an equal opportunity,” Trelde explained. “You don’t have to know the law inside out, but you do have to understand it.”