Public procurement undertaken by my Department and its Offices is governed by an extensive range of national and EU rules and regulations, which are encapsulated in the National Public Procurement Policy Framework. The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) is charged with overseeing and standardising procurement processes and procedures throughout the public service.
My Department has a dedicated Procurement Co-ordination Unit, headed at Principal Officer level, which provides an advisory service and advocates best practice on public procurement matters internally to all business units. Each business unit is responsible for its own procurement of goods and services. A significant proportion of the Department’s procurement is undertaken via centralised framework arrangements put in place by the OGP.
Procurement also features prominently as part of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) annual audit of my Department’s Vote. In addition, the Department’s own Internal Audit Unit, also periodically conduct procurement audits, the most recent one being completed this summer.
In any given year there will always be certain circumstances where a full procurement process cannot be conducted. Typically, such instances are where:
- The provision of the required service can only be sourced from a sole supplier e.g. ICT software licenses and/or support;
- Specialist expertise is needed e.g. certain legal or translation services;
- A timing issue arises as the Department or its Offices await new OGP framework agreement(s) to be finalised for certain goods or services. In such cases, the Department or its Offices, typically have no option but to undertake a short-term extension to an existing contract until the OGP framework is in place.
All such instances are brought to the attention of the C&AG in line with Department of Finance Circular 40/2002 and as part of the Department’s annual Appropriation Account. This process involves signoff by the Principal Officer responsible for the Procurement Co-Ordination Unit and also the Secretary General in her role as Accounting Officer. The 2017 and 2018 Appropriation Accounts have been certified by the C&AG. Preparations for the 2019 Appropriation Account have recently commenced.
The C&AG noted that in 2017 there were 8 instances of short-term contract extensions where it was not possible to undertake a full procurement process. The related in-year expenditure totalled €365,000. The services contracted for included cleaning, offsite file storage, office stationery, translation costs, specialist consultancy and legal expertise. In addition, services were provided by six sole suppliers covering ICT licenses and support, telephony services and specialist publications. The related in-year expenditure to sole suppliers totalled €661,000.
In 2018 there were four instances of short-term contract extensions where it was not possible to conduct a full procurement process and these involved in-year expenditure of €310,00. The services procured covered security, translation and specialist consultancy services. In addition, services were provided by six sole suppliers covering ICT licenses and support, telephony, room hire and specialist publications. The related in-year expenditure to sole suppliers totalled €615,000.