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EDMS (EZD) in the public procurement processes - the interview with Agnieszka Gawrońska-Chrobak

EDMS is a tool that is supposed to facilitate work, improve its quality, facilitate awarding contracts, and flexible work with the document. The pandemic made us aware that this change was a necessity - says Agnieszka Gawrońska-Chrobak, Head of the Public Procurement Office.

Picture of a keyboard.

What did your team’s task involve?

Our task was to describe the public procurement processes. We adopted a cross-functional approach. We created a team consisting of people working in different units at the Warsaw University of Technology, which allowed us to take a look at the entire system of public procurement at the Warsaw University of Technology. Public procurement is organised slightly differently at the Central Administration than at WUT faculties. And the organisation at the IT Centre is another story. As a rule, we have common principles, but their implementation may sometimes be different as it is adjusted to individual units. Because of that, the project team included 3 people from the Department of Public Procurement, that is me, my deputy – Ms Anna Poreda, Ms Dorota Sochacka, who is a specialist on public procurement, Ms Marta Rudnicka, a representative for public procurement at the Faculty of Electronics and Information Technologies, and 2 people from the IT Centre – Ms Joanna Kaczanowska, a representative for public procurement and Mr Michał Hermanowski, who has experience in EDMS. Mr Dariusz Parzych, who is a member of the team for process management at IDUB PW, is our moderator.

How did you begin working in your team?  

We concluded that at the beginning we will try to define the main processes which will always be a part of public procurement and have an impact on the implementation of the entire procurement.   We identified 9 main processes. The first process involves planning public procurement, the second one includes applications and awarding contracts, and the third one conducting the procedure in a non-statutory manner. By the procedure, I mean the one that used to include bids below EUR 30,000, and now includes those below PLN 130,000. Next, we described the procedure for the amount below PLN 130,000, which is a process regulated by the Law on Public Procurement. We also addressed the process of procurement implementation, which is the implementation of the agreement by the unit. We narrowed it down, but to get the whole picture, we described a process that is close to the public procurement procedure and involves implementing invoices. Finally, we moved to the issue of storing paper documentation on public procurement, which always closes the procedure both at the Warsaw University of Technology and other budget units. We spent quite a long time talking about the problem of storing documentation in electronic format.

This sounds like a big or even huge change.

Yes, indeed.  As of this year, all public procurement procedures must be partially conducted in electronic format. All bids are submitted in electronic format, not on paper. This is something new, we aren’t used to it and we don’t have much experience with it, even though some units including the Public Procurement Department, Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology and IT Centre gained some experience last year receiving electronic bids in procedures exceeding European Union’s brackets. We considered this when creating diagrams.

Did you face any difficulties during your work?

Yes and no. No, because those are processes that are part of our daily work and we know how they operate in practice.  The difficult part was the fact that the entire public procurement system has changed this year. The Law on Public Procurement, which entered into force in January 2021, has been focused on the electronic format of public procurement. During our work, we had to address the way we use the new tools created due to exchanging paper into electronic format.  I’m talking about the e-Zamówienia Platform launched by the Public Procurement Office, MiniPortal, and ePUAP box. These are the tools that enable the contractor to submit electronic bids. The ordering party, in turn, can collect and decipher the bids and conduct the procedure. According to the Public Procurement Office, the Platform will be enhanced with more modules and the existing functionalities will be developed. Eventually, it will be a platform where it will be possible to conduct the entire procedure.

How long did the work take?

It lasted around 3 months. We met up once or twice a week for a couple of hours, mainly on MS Teams. Once we managed to meet face-to-face, in a  large room, maintaining social distancing. We could see the result of our work on a large projector screen. During work, our team was extremely disciplined. Our assumptions were implemented week by week. People who accepted the responsibility for preparing the diagrams and descriptions simply did it. There were no delays.

How did the co-workers respond to those changes?

The necessity of change is nothing new to our co-workers. They’re aware that this is something we have been considering for a while and the entire process was somehow sped up and additionally motivated by the pandemic. EDMS is a tool that is supposed to facilitate work, improve its quality, facilitate awarding contracts, and flexible work with the document. The pandemic made us aware that this change was a necessity resulting from the technological development but also from the willingness to use a tool that will make the workload lighter and reduce the time spent working with documenting, for instance, when forwarding correspondence. Naturally, there appear questions whether EDMS can eliminate paper or whether both systems will operate parallelly.

Is it going to happen?

We still need to wait for a definite final answer. We’ll check in practice how our work goes after introducing the changes. The point of our entire work is to facilitate performing our duties, not to complicate the process.

What else is going to change?

Methods of archiving documents. At the moment, archiving is pretty standardised. Those are paper documents which, depending on their character, are stored for a certain time – usually 4 years at the unit and 10 years in the School Archives. Because the bids are submitted in electronic format, and there will be no return to paper format, we hope that electronic archives will be created based on EDMS. I mean an archive that will secure electronic bids. Apart from that, it will facilitate storing the other processed documents and documents converted into electronic format, for instance, in case of control. We aim to make these documents available for all authorised, empowered, or interested persons (access to public information – editor’s note). Such a solution will allow us to be transparent, will secure the continuity of documentation, and will be more convenient than the already existing system.

Will there be any training organised for employees dealing with public procurement at WUT?

I think the training will be absolutely necessary. You should learn about new tools in practice and familiarise yourself with their possibilities.