Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Questions (52)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

52. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide details of the measures he has introduced that encourage buyers to break contracts into lots. [10434/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Guidelines issued by my Department (Circular 10/10) require public bodies to conduct the public procurement function in a way that facilitates and does not place barriers to participation of small and medium enterprises. As one measure to achieve this, the guidance advises that the sub-dividing of procurement requirements into “lots” should be considered by contracting authorities where it would be appropriate, practical and can be done without compromising efficiency and value for money.

The guidance also provides that in establishing framework agreements, contracting authorities are to consider how proposed arrangements will impact on SMEs. They are required to ensure that the terms of the framework facilitate the inclusion of smaller enterprises if these can meet requirements or compete for particular lots. Also smaller companies can combine with others to make a joint bid for a contract that they might not be in a position to perform on their own.

Circular 10/10 has been in place for just over two years. It is clear that there is a need to ensure greater consistency in relation to the implementation of this circular. In this regard, the National Procurement Service (NPS) established its 'Working Group to assist Small and Medium Enterprises' in February 2012 to facilitate open discussion on the issue of public service procurement. The Working Group consists of representatives from the NPS, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Business and Employers Federation, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, Chambers Ireland, and the Small Firms Association. The Group has met on a number of occasions and has raised many issues relating to procurement and particularly how these issues impact on SMEs. Resulting from these discussions the NPS has issued two information circulars to all buyers in, and suppliers to, the public service with the aim of improving practice in the procurement arena.