4 questions to Jean-Lou Blachier, confederal vice-president of the CGPME
Jean-Lou Blachier is confederal vice-president of the CGPME (General Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized companies in France) and president of the “Union Territoriale des Petites et Moyennes Industries”. For the last two years, he has also acted as public procurement ombudsman. Appointed by the President of the French Republic in a decree dated 19 December 2012, Jean-Lou Blachier, who is also an entrepreneur, has the mission of promoting access of companies to the 200 billion Euros of public or semi-state procurement in France. A highly strategic task where his talent as a negotiator will serve the French economy, getting buyers to meet with innovative SMEs. To date, one thousand public buyers have been approached as well as over 8 000 companies, including Lemer Pax.
In your opinion, what emblematic measure could be implemented quickly so that buyers and innovative SMEs can meet on a level playing field?
Jean-Lou Blachier: Today, French buyers are criminally and personally liable three years after awarding a contract. This is far stricter than in other countries in the European Union and results in a handicap for innovative companies. This provision in the French Code of public procurement eliminates any initiative and leads to hesitation on the part of the buyers. It even raises the stakes. When a call for tender is issued, the buyer may not meet with companies, but the dialogue between public buyers and companies can be opened outside the tendering phase. It is important for a company to meet public buyers to ensure it and that their products are known. We with the department of legal affairs in Bercy (French ministry of finance) to see how we can change this weighty criminal liability. This would create a climate of trust more conducive to a better mutual understanding and the development of a fruitful partnership.
Concentration of hospital purchasing follows procurement logic and reduces the field of action of innovative companies. How can this trend be reversed to help SMEs to win contracts?
Jean-Lou Blachier: Before being the national public procurement ombudsman, I was myself an entrepreneur and am therefore very attentive to company issues. This is what my battle plan is based on! The most common hindrances to companies have been identified and at the beginning of October the decree applying measures to simplify public contracts entered force in France. Nothing can stop this movement. Most of the time, concentration is not a good idea and I am working hard to ensure SMEs have opportunities in this context. When procurement is concentrated, no small companies nor perhaps even French companies will reply to tenders. Public procurement authorities sometimes use an allotment approach which should be encouraged. Group purchasing organisations are starting to listen. The activity needs to be liberated and greater equality of economic opportunity restored.
Innovative News: Can innovation accelerate this movement in favour of SMEs?
Jean-Lou Blachier: The decree published in the Official Journal on 26 September aims at with European directives. A company such as Lemer Pax should be able to benefit from these new measures. The strict logic of the lowest bidder is not always the most reasonable in terms of costs. The price should not be the only factor in the decision. In the hospital sector especially, it is preferable that foreign practitioners coming to be trained in our hospitals are trained on French equipment. It stands to reason that SMEs then see the results in exports.