Italy - Country Commercial Guide
Selling to the Public Sector

Describes how major projects are secured and financed. Explains activities of the multilateral development banks in and other aid-funded projects.

Last published date: 2021-10-29

Selling to the Government

Government procurement in Europe is governed by both international obligations under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and EU-wide legislation under the EU Public Procurement Directives. U.S.-based companies are allowed to bid on public tenders covered by the GPA, while European subsidiaries of U.S. companies may bid on all public procurement contracts covered by the EU Directives in the European Union.

The EU directives on public procurement have been revised and new legislation on concession has also been adopted. Member States were required to transpose the provisions of the new directives by April 16, 2016. The four relevant directives are:

Directive 2014/24/EU (replacing Directive 2004/18/EC) on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts applies to the general sector;

Directive 2014/25/EU (replacing Directive 2004/17/EC) coordinating the procurement procedures of entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors;

Directive 2009/81/EC on defense and sensitive security procurement. This Directive sets Community rules for the procurement of arms, munitions and war material (plus related works and services) for defense purposes, but also for the procurement of sensitive supplies, works and services for non-military security purposes;

Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of concession contracts. A concession contract (either for the delivery of works or services) is conducted between a public authority and a private enterprise that gives the right to the company to build infrastructure and operate businesses that would normally fall within the jurisdiction of the public authority (e.g. highways).

The EU has three remedy directives imposing common standards for all member states to abide by in case bidders identify discriminatory public procurement practices.

Electronic versions of the procurement documentation must be available through an internet URL immediately on publication of the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) contract notice. Full electronic communication (with some exceptions) will become mandatory for all public contracts from October 2018. Central purchasing bodies are required to publish their contracts and requests for tenders since April 2017.

Electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) will be introduced beginning the 3rd quarter of 2018, based on the requirement set forth in Directive 2014/55/EU. The Directive makes the receipt and processing of electronic invoices in public procurement obligatory.

There are restrictions for U.S. suppliers in the EU utilities sector, both in the EU Utilities Directive and in EU coverage of the GPA. Article 85 of Directive 2014/25 allows EU contracting authorities to either reject non-EU bids where the proportion of goods originating in non-EU countries exceeds 50% or give preference to the EU bid if prices are equivalent (meaning within a three percent margin). Moreover, the Directive allows EU contracting authorities to retain the right to suspend or restrict the award of service contract to undertaking in third countries where no reciprocal access is granted.

There are also restrictions in the EU coverage of the GPA that apply specifically to U.S.-based companies. U.S. companies are not allowed to bid on works and services contracts procured by sub-central public contracting authorities in the following sectors:

  • Water sector
  • Airport services
  • Urban transport sector as described above, and railways in general
  • Dredging services and procurement related to shipbuilding

Public Procurement in Italy

Italy’s public procurement system is bound by international obligations under both the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and EU Public Procurement Directives. Through a series of legislative decrees enacted since the GPA became part of EU domestic law in January 1996, Italy has generally brought its domestic procurement laws into compliance with the above international obligations. Italy has over 22,000 contracting agencies at the central and local level that are subject to EU Directives on public procurement. GOI Ministries are the main central contracting agencies. At the local level, principal contracting agencies include regions, provinces, municipalities, and entities controlled by the municipalities, including local healthcare authorities responsible, among other things, for hospital administration. There is an ongoing effort to reduce the number of contracting agencies and streamline procurement protocols and processes.

E-procurement

The need for the Italian public sector to improve efficiency is driving the growth of e-procurement. To rationalize expenditures for goods and services, both the central and local Italian government offices utilize the Italian Public Administration eMarketplace (MEPA), an e-procurement platform managed by Consip SpA, the Italian Central Purchasing body, 100% owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) through its division “Acquisti in Rete PA” (Public Procurement Online). MEPA connects Italian public bodies to thousands of suppliers throughout Italy. 

The public sector utilizes e-sourcing to purchase most information technology equipment and office supplies, furniture, uniforms. The online procurement of services is also growing, particularly in the areas of energy (fuel, electric power), printing services, vehicle rental, cleaning services and financial services. 

Announcements of tenders on public procurements are monitored by the U.S. Mission to the European Union and can be accessed through the webpage: https://ted.europa.eu/TED/main/HomePage.do

The official European Gazette and the official Italian Gazette publish invitations to bid. The U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union has developed a database of all European public procurement tenders that are open to U.S.-based firms by virtue of the Government Procurement Agreement

For more information visit:  

We recommend that the U.S. firm have agent/distributor representation rather than try to deal directly with Italian government agencies. This is in part because many contracting agencies often target the local procurement market first, which does include subsidiaries, branches, and agents of U.S. companies.

U.S. companies bidding on Government tenders may also qualify for U.S. Government advocacy. A unit of the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, the Advocacy Center coordinates U.S. Government interagency advocacy efforts on behalf of U.S. exporters bidding on public sector contracts with international governments and government agencies. The Advocacy Center works closely with our network of the U.S. Commercial Service worldwide and inter-agency partners to ensure that exporters of U.S. products and services have the best possible chance of winning government contracts. Advocacy assistance can take many forms but often involves the U.S. Embassy or other U.S. Government agencies expressing support for the U.S. bidders directly to the foreign government. Consult Advocacy for Foreign Government Contracts for additional information.

Financing of Projects

Multilateral Development Bank

s and Financing Government Sales. Price, payment terms, and financing can be a significant factor in winning a government contract. Many governments finance public works projects through borrowing from the Multilateral Development Banks (MDB). A helpful guide for working with the MDBs is the Guide to Doing Business with the Multilateral Development Banks. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s (USDOC) International Trade Administration (ITA) has a Foreign Commercial Service Officer stationed at each of the five different Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs): the African Development Bank; the Asian Development Bank; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the Inter-American Development Bank; and the World Bank

Learn more by contacting the Commercial Liaison Office to the  European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

EU financial assistance programs provide a wide array of grants, loans, loan guarantees and co-financing for feasibility studies and projects in several key sectors (e.g., environmental, transportation, energy, telecommunications, tourism, public health). A number of centralized financing programs are also generating procurement and other opportunities directly with EU institutions.

The EU supports economic development projects within its member states, as well as EU-wide “economic integration” projects that cross both internal and external EU borders. In addition, the EU provides assistance to candidate and neighbor countries. The EU provides project financing through grants from the EU budget and loans from the European Investment Bank. Grants from the EU Structural and Investment Funds program are distributed through the member states’ national and regional authorities. Projects in non-EU countries are managed through the Directorate-Generals Enlargement, Development and Cooperation (EuropeAid), Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).