Departmental Staff Recruitment

Questions (36)

Martin Ferris

Question:

36. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to take on additional staff to deliver the recently announced overhaul of the Irish Statute Book to be overseen by his Department. [42523/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

On 12th July 2013, the Government approved my proposals to continue with the task of overhauling and simplifying the statute book, to be delivered initially through a series of statute law revision Bills focusing on eliminating obsolete regulations and charters before Irish independence and obsolete legislation more widely since independence.

At present, the Statute Law Revision Programme is being led and managed by two professional legal personnel (Project Director and Project Manager) engaged under contract with my Department. In addition, under the National JobBridge Scheme, three researchers have been offered and accepted placements in recent weeks to work on the project, joining three other researchers already working on the project who have also been appointed under this Scheme. These staffing arrangements correspond to those in place when the project was previously located in the Office of the Attorney General where it was initiated.

Responsibility for the SLRP transferred to my Department in January 2012.

National Procurement Service Framework Agreements

Questions (37)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

37. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his Department's procurement reform programme and the work of the new office of government procurement. [42524/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Reform of public procurement is one of the major projects of key strategic importance in the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan. Procurement of supplies and services accounts for around €9 billion of current spending by the State per annum. This represents a very significant portion of overall spending and it is, therefore, essential that the Public Service achieves maximum value for money and operational efficiency in its approach to public procurement.

In this regard, an external review of the central procurement function was commissioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The report of the review, which was published in late last year, found that significant savings can be achieved through the implementation of a transformational change to the central procurement model. The report estimates that implementation of its recommendations, over a three-year period, could yield potential annual savings in the range of €249 million to €637 million on an addressable spend of €7 billion, depending on the approach taken.

In order to realise these benefits the National Procurement Service has put in place a number of national arrangements designed to secure better value for money from leveraging the public service’s buying power in relation to a range of goods and services that are commonly purchased across the public service. These national arrangements have benefits that include:

- cash savings;

- administrative savings from reduced duplication of tendering;

- greater purchasing expertise;

- improved consistency; and,

- enhanced service levels.

In relation to plans for further reform of public procurement, the review also found that significant savings can be achieved through the implementation of a transformational change to the central procurement model. In December 2012, arising out of recommendations in the review of the central procurement function the Minister announced the appointment of a Chief Procurement Officer to lead a key element of the Government’s Public Service Reform agenda. The new approach to public procurement will involve:

- integrating procurement policy, strategy and sourcing in one office;

- strengthening spend analytics and data management;

- much greater aggregation of purchasing across public bodies to achieve better value for money;

- examining the specifications set out for goods and services;

- evaluating demand levels to assess how demand and volume can be reduced; and

- strengthening supplier and category management.

Since the appointment of the Chief Procurement Officer on 28 January 2013, he has initiated and completed a series of engagements (workshops and one-to-one meetings) with key stakeholders within the public sector and their representatives in relation to the development of the proposed governance structures, implementation plan, transition arrangements and savings targets for the procurement function. The following sectors were engaged in workshops / meetings: Health, Education, Local Government, Defence, Justice, and other Central Government Departments.

In order to encourage greater SME participation the National Procurement Service, over the past three years, has conducted a targeted programme of education for suppliers who wish to learn more about doing business with the Irish Public Service. This programme consists of seminars, workshops and large scale 'meet the buyer' events hosted nationwide. To date the National Procurement Service has facilitated workshops and presented at seminars to over 3,000 SMEs nationwide. Parallel with these events the National Procurement Service also works closely with business representative bodies such as ISME and IBEC to provide briefings for their members.

To summarise: we in government want better value for money for our substantial procurement spend and we want Irish SMEs, where necessary, to form alliances and networks to ensure they can tender on a competitive basis for this work.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (38)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

38. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the State can secure further savings in respect of legal fees across Departments and State agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42501/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The level of legal fees across Government Departments and State agencies will be examined in the light of the relevant expenditure allocations decided by the Government in the context of Budget 2014. Necessary adjustments will be made to ensure adherence to such allocations.

The adjustments will continue the work already achieved in recent years by bodies such as the State Claims Agency and the Offices of the Chief State Solicitor and Director of Public Prosecutions in reducing expenditure on legal services, both in the level of fees and through stringent examination of claims. In addition, my Department has recently issued a circular underlining the importance of competitive tendering for legal services and setting out a number of approaches and tools for public bodies to use in managing legal costs.

Compliance with the terms of the circular will be expected to play a major role in Departments’ remaining within the constraints of the allocations to be contained in the forthcoming Budget.

National Lottery Licence Sale

Questions (39, 40)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

39. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason An Post National Lottery Company Labour Relations Commission proposals have been uploaded to his Department’s licence competition virtual data room and presented as an agreed document despite no staff ballots on the proposals having been held thus far. [42516/13]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

40. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Labour Relations Commission and An Post National Lottery Company proposals have yet to be presented to workers for ballot; and the impact this industrial relations uncertainty will have on the awarding of the new licence. [42515/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 40 together.

My officials have held discussions in relation to the staff of the National Lottery Company with the relevant trade union and management interests. The matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). The LRC has prepared a proposal regarding the staffing issue and these proposals have been put forward to both the unions and management concerned on the basis that the parties involved agree to recommend them for acceptance. The LRC proposal provides that all staff of An Post National Lottery Company will transfer to the next operator and will fall under Transfer of Undertakings legislation (TUPE). TUPE does not cover pension entitlements. However, the LRC proposal provides that National Lottery employees who are members of the An Post pension schemes shall be offered by the new licence holder pension arrangements which are no less favourable than their current arrangements.

The LRC proposal was uploaded to the Virtual Data Room (VDR) for the competition for the next National Lottery licence. However, it was made clear to potential applicants for the licence who had access to the VDR that the document contained a proposal which had not yet been agreed.

Public Procurement Regulations

Questions (41)

Brendan Smith

Question:

41. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if progress is being made on ensuring that public service procurement contracts are secured by Irish firms in a manner that is within EU guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42505/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Under EU law, public contracts above certain values must be advertised EU-wide and awarded to the most competitive tender in an open and objective process. The aim is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers value for money. It would be a breach of the rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates on grounds of location or nationality and there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules.

I am aware that public procurement can be an important source of business for Irish small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Current guidelines (Circular 10/10) issued by my Department require public bodies to promote participation of SMEs in the award of public contracts. The guidance also highlights practices that are to be avoided because they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts. The key provisions of the guidance include:

- supplies and general services contracts with an estimated value of €25,000 or more to be advertised on the www.etenders.gov.ie website;

- less use of “restrictive” tendering procedures and greater use of “open” tendering;

- ensuring that the levels set by contracting authorities for suitability criteria are justified and proportionate to the needs of the contract;

- sub-dividing larger requirements into lots where this is practical and can be done without compromising efficiency and value for money.

In order to encourage greater SME participation the National Procurement Service, over the past three years, has conducted a targeted programme of education for suppliers who wish to learn more about doing business with the Irish Public Service. This programme consists of seminars, workshops and large scale 'meet the buyer' events hosted nationwide. To date the National Procurement Service has facilitated workshops and presented at seminars to over 4,500 SMEs nationwide. Parallel with these events the National Procurement Service also works closely with business representative bodies such as ISME and IBEC to provide briefings for their members.

The National Procurement Service is responsible for producing annual statistical information in relation to above-EU threshold procurement activity by the Irish public sector and for providing these statistics to the European Commission. For works contracts the threshold is €5 million; for supplies and service contracts awarded by Government Departments the threshold is €130,000 and for the remainder of public bodies the threshold is €200,000. The threshold for supplies and service contracts of entities operating in utility sectors (water, energy, transport and postal) is €400,000. On average 5000 tenders for the procurement of goods, services and works are advertised on eTenders every year. I am informed by the National Procurement Service that the latest information available relates to 2010. In that year, the National Procurement Service estimates that approximately 5% of the overall spend went to non-domestic suppliers.

The importance of procurement policy becomes apparent when one sees that each year public authorities across the European Union spend 19% of GDP or approximately €2.4 trillion on goods, services and works. In this context, it is important to realise that the open market regime offers critical opportunities for Irish companies to win business abroad. In this regard, Enterprise Ireland and Intertrade Ireland offer training and support to businesses in order to raise awareness of public procurement opportunities and to improve the capacity of indigenous firms to compete effectively for these opportunities.

National Lottery Licence Sale

Questions (42)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

42. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the impact the legal proceedings initiated by the Rehab Group and Rehab Lotteries will have on the tendering process of the new national lottery licence. [42513/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I received correspondence some months ago on behalf of Rehab Lotteries which gave notice of its intention to challenge the State regarding the establishment and operation of the National Lottery on competition grounds. Having taken legal advice the response given was that the organisation’s assertion was unfounded and that in the event of proceedings being issued they would be vigorously defended by the State. The threat of legal proceedings had no impact on the tendering process for the award of the National Lottery license.