Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (294)

Peadar Tóibín


294. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps his Department intends to take to ensure that Government procurement impacts directly on both youth and long term unemployment. [3248/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The scope for including social considerations in public contracts is something that I have been examining closely recently. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to my reply on this issue (PQ 3066/13 - answered 23/01/13).

The inclusion of a social clause in all public procurement contracts requiring that a quota of young unemployed people or long-term unemployed be employed in the delivery of the contract poses a number of risks. Firstly, it is against EU Treaty principles to discriminate between people on the basis of age. Secondly, in the current economic climate, and in particular bearing in mind the difficulties in the construction sector, businesses have for obvious reasons been reducing their existing workforce rather than taking on new employees. Consequently, it would be expected that, where a business is awarded a public contract, the work would be carried out by the existing employees of that business. In such circumstances a social clause requiring that a number of long-term unemployed be employed in delivering a public contract could either impose an additional cost on SMEs that they may not be able to afford, or result in an employee of the supplier being let go in favour of a long-term unemployed person.

The Government has a wide range of measures that it is deploying to facilitate job creation and support labour activation, with particular emphasis on assisting long term unemployed people. Obviously, the main purpose of the public procurement process is to ensure that goods, services and works are purchased by the State in a manner that is legal, transparent and of high probity, and our key requirement is the achievement of value for money. Within this context, my Department and the National Procurement Service are examining the use of social clauses as an additional means of supporting activation and we are seeking to identify the scope for the use of social clauses in parts of the capital area in particular.