Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (369)

Joe McHugh


369. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the envisaged impact of the public procurement process on the school supply sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8803/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

In July 2012, following a government decision to make eight of the National Procurement Service contracts mandatory, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform issued ‘Circular 06/12: Public Procurement (Framework Agreements)’. The purpose of this Circular is to inform public bodies of the mandatory requirement to utilise central contracts, put in place by the NPS, when procuring a range of commonly acquired goods and services. Such central arrangements are targeted at securing best value for money and facilitating contracting authorities to deliver services within their budgetary constraints.

The NPS is focused on developing centralised arrangements for the procurement of goods and services used commonly across the public service nationwide. The benefits arising from these central arrangements include: cash savings; administrative savings from reduced duplication of tendering; greater purchasing expertise; improved consistency and compliance with EU procurement regulations; and enhanced service levels. Surveys carried out into public bodies, which switched from using their own contracts to the NPS contracts, have indicated that savings of up to 50% can be achieved.

Prior to issuing tenders the NPS engages with its clients to ensure their requirements are met and that the most commonly bought items are included in the tender. Under the provision of Circular 06/12 it is however permissible for buyers to purchase goods and services from non-NPS suppliers if these goods and services are demonstrably cheaper.

However, where a public service body purchases such goods or services it will need to explain the rationale for not using the NPS arrangements and provide a value for money justification that takes account of the full costs incurred in managing its own procurement process.

Systems of internal control within public service bodies are to support compliance with the requirements of the circular. Public service bodies shall make available for review if requested by internal auditors, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Local Government Audit Service or other duly appointed auditors, details of internal controls in place to ensure compliance, and details of goods and services, subject to the mandate, acquired other than under mandated NPS central frameworks and the associated value for money justification.

The NPS also has, as part of its education and development remit, an active programme to educate SMEs in how to participate effectively in the public service procurement process. To date the NPS has facilitated workshops and presented at seminars to over 3,500 SMEs nationwide.

In NPS competitions, the tender documents explicitly seek to encourage the participation of SMEs. A prime example of this is when the NPS decided to divide the office supplies contract into three individual lots for Stationery, ICT Consumables and Paper. This was to increase the possibility for SMEs to tender individually, or form consortia that could enter competitive bids to win this national contract.

Codex Ltd, an indigenous company, won the Stationery contract and are sourcing up to 60% of their products using 136 local agents and manufacturers. Furthermore, the ICT Consumables contract was also won by another Irish SME, Datapac Limited.