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Parliamentary Question re: Local Authorities & Procurement

QUESTION NO: 183

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin)

by Deputy Anthony Lawlor

for WRITTEN ANSWER on 06/05/2015

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he is aware that, in spite of his Department’s Circular 10/14: Initiatives to assist small and medium enterprises in public procurement, many local authorities are still not applying the principles of the circular in their procurement, and as a result, Irish small and medium sized enterprises are still largely excluded from Government tenders, with a very high percentage of our procurement going outside the country; the steps he and the Office of Government Procurement are taking to ensure that the above circular is implemented, in order that Irish small and medium enterprises, who find it impossible to compete with foreign multi-nationals, are not precluded from, or disadvantaged by, tendering for Government contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY.

Public Procurement is governed by EU and National rules. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money.  It would be a breach of the EU rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates on grounds such as nationality, geographic location or organisational size, and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules.

I would point out that the reform of public procurement in Ireland is being carried out in a manner that recognises the clear importance of small and medium-sized enterprises in this country’s economic recovery.  The recently published report by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) “Public Service Spend and Tendering Analysis for 2013” showed that 93% of public service procurement expenditure was with businesses in the Republic of Ireland. This was based on an analysis of €2.742 billion expenditure across 64 large public service bodies involving over 35,000 suppliers.

The OGP is working with industry representative bodies to promote the engagement of Irish business in public procurement (including ISME, IBEC, SFA, Chambers Ireland, and CIF) as well as the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, InterTrade Ireland, and Enterprise Ireland.  Last year, for example, the OGP supported two ‘Meet the Buyer’ events – one in Belfast and the other in Dublin attended by over 1,100 businesses.  In addition, the OGP proactively launched a campaign to get more businesses to register with e-tenders (the national tendering portal) which resulted in 12,300 new supplier registrations in 2014.

It is also important to realise that open tendering is a two way street and provides Irish companies with opportunities to compete in an EU market estimated to be valued in excess of €2.4 trillion per annum.  The open market regime offers opportunities for Irish companies to win business abroad and many Irish businesses are successful in this regard.

The OGP will continue to work with industry to ensure that winning government business is done in a fair, transparent and accessible way and to ensure that Government procurement policies are business friendly.