COVID-19: Lessons learned in public procurement. Time for a new normal?

The COVID-19 crisis upended markets and assumptions in public procurement, and posed an almost existential threat to traditional procurement systems. Seismic changes in economic relationships – governments were no longer monopsonists, government officials failed as economic intermediaries between suppliers and the public, and supplies that were traditionally treated as private (such as medical equipment) suddenly became “public” goods under worldwide demand. Traditional trade rules were rendered irrelevant, as the goal was no longer simply to open individual procurements but rather to open borders to intense global demand. Although the disruption was revolutionary, ironically the solution is to return to first principles of transparency and integrity to preserve governments’ fragile legitimacy in a crisis. The press of the pandemic also showed the need for governments to reduce transaction costs by buying cooperatively and effectively across borders. These lessons highlight the need (and the opportunity) to rethink public procurement systems, to craft a “new normal” against the dark background of a worldwide pandemic.

1. In a crisis folded within the broader COVID-19 pandemic, public procurement during the pandemic suddenly seemed incapable of satisfying its raison d’être, namely, to provide public institutions with the supplies they needed—the masks, personal protective equipment and respirators desperately needed by medical personnel, patients and ordinary citizens all over the world. This crisis of confidence in public procurement deepened as hundreds of press articles, [1] radio and TV debates around the world, specialized magazines and blogs [2] (the reaction on the internet has been almost as rapid as the pandemic) exposed the dark corners of public purchasing of medical supplies, revealing countless failures in this obscure corner of public administration. 2. On a legal level, the COVID-19

Access to this article is restricted to subscribers

Already Subscribed? Sign-in

Access to this article is restricted to subscribers.

Read one article for free

Sign-up to read this article for free and discover our services.


PDF Version



Laurence Folliot Lalliot, Christopher R. Yukins, COVID-19: Lessons learned in public procurement. Time for a new normal?, September 2020, Concurrences N° 3-2020, Art. N° 95667, pp. 46-58

Visites 979

All reviews