The reform of the procurement system across the public service is a key element of the reform programme for the public service. Public Procurement savings enable public service organisations deliver much needed services within the tighter budgets that they much now operate. The fragmented procurement arrangements across the public service have enabled suppliers to charge different public service bodies different prices for the same goods and services. This is not sustainable, as the State cannot afford to continue to purchase works, goods and services in a manner that undermines the level of services it can deliver.
Reforms are being carried out in a manner that recognises the importance of SMEs in the economic recovery of the country. The establishment of the Office of Government Procurement will be key to bringing a more professional and whole of government approach to procurement. It will drive fair, transparent and open competition in the marketplace but also continue to work with business to ensure that government procurement policies are business friendly.
As a government we want better value for money for our substantial procurement spend and we want Irish SMEs, where necessary, to form consortia to ensure they can tender on a competitive basis for this work. In this regard the Office of Government Procurement has facilitated workshops and presented at seminars to over 4,500 SMEs nationwide. These 'Meet the Buyer' events afforded suppliers an opportunity to meet and discuss the issues with public service buyers and provide networking opportunities for suppliers and encourage consortia-building.
The Office of Government Procurement is committed to ensuring that SMEs are fully engaged with public sector procurement and the opportunities presenting. In conjunction with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the OGP has set up a high level group on SME access to Public Procurement. The focus of this group is to develop and monitor strategies for SME access to public procurement. The group also has regard to the Government's Action Plan for Jobs and specifically those actions aimed at maximising procurement opportunities for SME in the public sector. In this context my Department has also recently finished reviewing and updating existing guidelines and procedures aimed at promoting SME participation in public procurement. Circular 10/14, launched on 17 April, sets out new initiatives aimed at opening up opportunities for small businesses to bid for State business, reducing barriers in the procurement process and reducing costs for bidders. These new guidelines have been broadly welcomed by industry representative associations.