The Government has taken several steps to encourage the participation of SMEs in their tender competitions. National Procurement Service (NPS) tender documents explicitly seek to encourage the participation of SMEs. They encourage SMEs who believe that the scope of a particular competition is beyond their technical or business capacity to explore the possibilities of forming relationships with other SMEs or with larger enterprises. Larger enterprises are also encouraged to consider the practical ways that SMEs could be included in their proposals to maximise the social and economic benefits of the contracts that result from these tenders.
The NPS uses the CSSO-approved standard suite of documents when drafting a tender and I have encouraged all other contracting authorities involved in public procurement to do the same – this use of standardised documents is designed to simplify the issues facing business when tendering for public contracts. The standard tender documents provide that much of the documentary evidence of a tenderer’s capacity to undertake a project is not required to be produced at tender stage – instead, tenderers are asked to declare that they have the necessary capacity and that they will be in a position to produce the necessary documentation when requested. That documentary evidence (e.g., bank statements, audited accounts, proof of professional indemnity, etc.) need only be produced when a tenderer has been short-listed or is coming under consideration for the award of a contract. This approach is aimed at reducing the up-front administrative burden for businesses interested in tendering for contracts.
In line with the best practise recommendations of the Department of Finance Circular 10/10, contracting authorities are encouraged to ensure that requirement levels for turnover and insurance levels are proportionate to the particular contract. There is a social clause included in current public works contracts which deals with pay and conditions of employment and, as I indicated to Deputy Tóibín in reply to an earlier question, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are considering how it may be possible to include a performance requirement for the employment of the long-term unemployed in future contracts. The Department is also considering whether it would be appropriate to include comparable clauses in other public contracts.