Monika Milwicz, deputy director of EU Projects and Monitoring at GDDKiA, outlined the agency's achievements in significantly extending Poland's motorway and expressway network using EU funds from the 2007-2013 budget, and set out plans for the 2014-2020 budget round.
Her presentation also covered problem areas, in particular those associated with the procurement process. These went on to be the main topic covered in the panel discussion, in which Ms Milwicz was joined by Monika Stopa, head of unit at the Ministry of Regional Development's Infrastructure Programme Coordination Department, and Steve Novis, managing director of Atkins.
Ms Milwicz spoke of the lessons learned over the 2007-2014 period. As a result, GDDKiA will contract shorter stretches of road, averaging 15km.
A typical issue that cropped up in tenders for road-building and road maintenance was that the winning bidder had 30 days to bring together the team and machinery for carrying out the work. This period, from the bidder's point of view, was too short (bidders having a typically one-on-seven chance of winning a tender, will not invest speculatively), while from GDDKiA's point of view, the winning bidders were often late starting as they were still marshalling resources for the job.
Ms Stopa mentioned the Connecting Europe Facility, with a further €10-11bn to be spent EU-wide on roads and €7bn on rail in the forthcoming budget period to establish routes of strategic importance to the EU, in particular cross-border connections. Poland would be tapping into this source of finance for infrastructure. She mentioned hybrid projects – a blend of EU money and public-private partnerships. Six such projects are under way in the current programming period. Ms Stopa also referred to her ministry's Platforma PPP; on the website there is a list of tenders for projects that will be financed and built by the private sector.
Mr Novis stressed the importance of the pre-qualification process in public procurement, giving the public sector the chance of weeding out those bidders whose past performance could not guarantee a quality outcome for the project being tendered for. Because Poland was (in 2007-2013) and will be (between 2014-2020) the largest tender market in Europe, there is much interest, not all of it from companies competent to deliver a quality job. Mr Novis also suggested that Poland could, in certain cases, adopt the concept of Early Contractor Involvement, used effectively in the UK, whereby contractors have the opportunity to input their expertise at the concept stage leading to scheme designs with increased buildability and consequent programme and cost savings.
There were opportunities to quiz the panellists further after the Q&A session, as the policy group meeting was followed by the BPCC's mixer (at which the new London Routemaster bus was the star attraction).
This meeting will be followed up by a major public procurement seminar at the British Embassy on 6 November.