New procedure Open Call ‘Competitive procedure with negotiation’ replaces the ‘Design contest followed by a negotiated procedure without publication’

The new legislation on public procurements was the occasion to refresh the Open Call procedure. The most important change is the omission of the anonymous phase. The online platform My Open Call has also been renewed and expanded. From Open Call 37 onwards, tenders must be submitted online.

New legal basis for the Open Call

The Open Call was introduced in 1999 by the first Flemish Government Architect, bOb Van Reeth, as a tool by which to support public principals in the allocation of architectural and infrastructural assignments and master plans. For the past 20 years, the Open Call has been a part of the daily practice of the Team Flemish Government Architect. We are constantly seeking ways to adapt the Open Call to novel insights, new evolutions and technical possibilities.

The new law on public procurements offered the opportunity to further improve the Open Call procedure. The Team Flemish Government Architect has seized this new legislation to carry out, alongside the newly imposed obligations, more flexibility for principals, a simplification of the selection phases and a further digitization of the procedure.

This all resulted in new rules and regulations for the Open Call that were approved by the Flemish Government on 22 June 2018 and that will apply to all projects from Open Call 37.

A simpler procedure

The new procedure is adaptable to the needs of each individual project, takes up less time and means an administrative simplification. All this without sacrificing the qualitative evaluation of the tenders.

Up to and including edition 36, the Open Call consisted formally of two procedures that followed one another smoothly:

  1. A ‘design contest’, where only selected design teams prepared a sketch plan that was evaluated anonymously by a jury.
  2. A ‘negotiated procedure without publication’, where the laureates of the design contest presented their proposal and negotiations were held with them with an eye towards the allocation of the assignment.

From Open Call 37 onwards, however, this will be reduced to a single procedure: a ‘competitive procedure with negotiation’.

The most important consequence of this change is that the anonymous submission and the evaluation of the anonymous files have been eliminated. No laureates are selected any more and all the teams that submit a tender are included in the negotiation, which still starts with the presentation of the tenders by the design teams.

The ‘Open Call rules and regulations’ serve as the impulse for the drafting of the project-related procedure. In consultation with the Flemish Government Architect, principals can depart from the rules and regulations or refine them further. For instance, the allocation criteria, the number of selected candidates, the documents to be submitted and such can be adapted to suit the size of the project.

Changes to the application

One European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) for all Open Calls

The European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) is a self-declaration of the businesses' financial status, abilities and suitability for a public procurement procedure. It is available in all EU languages and used as a preliminary evidence of fulfilment of the conditions required in public procurement procedures across the EU.

All offices must upload an ESPD in ‘My Open Call’. This document is valid as long as its contents are accurate. Design teams can always upload a new document with adapted information.

The ESPD must be uploaded in PDF format, but is easy to reuse and to adapt as an XML document. A manual on how to work with XML and the online adaptation module can be found on this page.

Technical and professional competence

The threshold to submit a tender for Open Call projects continues to be kept deliberately low. To demonstrate technical and professional competence, three reference projects suffice. These are projects that have been carried out on one’s own behalf, in an office of one’s own or in the service of an employer (in this case the role in the project must be specified). These can also be research or study projects. They must be included in the portfolio. If a candidate is unable to submit the three required reference projects, they can submit references of one or more subcontractors with the application on condition that an ESPD of this subcontractor(s) is added to the portfolio.

Social, fiscal and financial obligations

For offices based in Belgium, the social, fiscal and financial evidence is retrieved via the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises. That is why it is important that all teams fill in their enterprise number in My Open Call.

The documents for non-Belgian teams cannot be downloaded by the Team Flemish Government Architect itself. Offices based outside Belgium must therefore upload the following pieces in ‘My Open Call’:

  • Evidence of compliance with social security obligations
  • Evidence of compliance with fiscal obligations
  • Evidence of non-bankruptcy and financial status

The validity of these documents has deliberately been kept sufficiently low. For instance, documents obtained in the context of other tenders can also be used for the Open Call procedure. Per document, it is necessary to mention the given date of issue. If the period of validity of these documents has elapsed, a reminder email will be sent.

Changes to the submission of the tender

Digital submission of the tender material

From Open Call 37 onwards, the material to be submitted can be uploaded directly in ‘My Open Call’. Besides the tender form and the concept vision, the accompanying images, texts and spreadsheets must also be uploaded.

Additional obligation of the ESPD

An ESPD, specifically for the project, must also be uploaded with the submission of the tender. Each design bureau must state herein that it is in compliance with all administrative preconditions. For a temporary association, if applicable, each member of the temporary association must submit an ESPD. In this case ESPD's are bundled into 1 document and submitted online.

Other changes in My Open Call

Overview of inscriptions, selections and allocations

‘My Open Call’ now provides an overview of the different applications, selections and allocations. Upon login, the designers immediately get an overview: whether there are still documents to be submitted and what the different deadlines are for the submission of the tenders for which one has been selected.

Management of the web pages by the design teams

The Team Flemish Government Architect has been working for some time on completing the online Open Call archive. Selected design teams can now upload and manage their images themselves on the web page with design visions (‘allocation’) and the realization page. This joint management ensures a quality and up-to-date archive and gives design teams the possibility to refer to these pages as an online reference project.

Adaptations to the GDPR

We have also ensured the compliance of the online application with the GDPR. As a result, the design teams and the Team Flemish Government Architect can sleep soundly when it comes to personal data submitted on the website.

Online to-dos for the design teams

  1. Check the details of the office
  2. Because it is the country where the design team is based that determines what documents need to be uploaded, it is important to check the address details of the design team and to fill them in correctly.
  3. The enterprise number is a new and legally required field in the contact details. This enterprise number is necessary for us to request the documents of the Belgian offices from the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises.
  4. Teams based outside Belgium upload the documents demonstrating compliance with the administrative obligations.
  5. To apply for the Open Call, it is necessary to upload the ESPD. You can find more information on how to do so in the manual.