Thursday, 14 November 2019

Questions (32)

Joan Burton

Question:

32. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the work of the Office of Government Procurement and the cross-departmental Social Considerations Advisory Group towards incorporating social and environmental considerations in public procurement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46860/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Patrick O’Donovan TD, and I launched the publication of Circular 20/2019: Promoting the use of Environmental and Social Considerations in Public Procurement in October.

 The Climate Action Plan will require every public body to have a climate mandate. A key element of such a mandate will be using public procurement to deliver change. This circular demonstrates the Government’s priority in promoting Green Public Procurement by asking Departments and Offices to consider the inclusion of green criteria in their procurements in the context of its wider commitments under the Climate Action Plan. 

The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment have been working collaboratively on developing this initiative. The procurement of goods and services by Government departments and bodies, in line with the Government’s own policies, will underpin the credibility of the national policy objectives themselves and enhance Ireland’s image as a green economy.  

Green public procurement (GPP) is about leveraging the State’s purchasing power to choose more environmentally friendly goods, services and works and help contribute to more sustainable consumption and production.  It has a key role to play in the EU's efforts to become a more resource-efficient economy. To be effective, GPP requires the inclusion of clear and verifiable environmental criteria for products and services in the public procurement process. 

The circular highlights the Government's priority in promoting green public procurement in the context of the wider commitments under the Climate Action Plan.  The circular instructs Departments/Offices to consider the inclusion of green criteria in their procurements.  The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is developing this criteria which will support the effective implementation of this initiative.  There will be a phased introduction of green criteria across Government and Public Sectors targeting priority products and services as well as building appropriate green criteria into OGP frameworks as they arise and providing support and guidance to procurers. 

Social Considerations Advisory Group

The Social Considerations Advisory Group was established earlier this year and had its inaugural meeting in March. Managed and chaired by OGP, the group’s membership is drawn from across Government departments and OGP’s sector partners in Education, Health, Local Government and Defence. 

The purpose of the group is to promote and facilitate the incorporation of social considerations (which include environmental considerations) into public procurement projects. The group meets quarterly and has met three times to date. The group is currently considering what social policy objectives could be advanced through public procurement, matching these with suitable procurement opportunities, which could be trialled on a pilot basis. This approach will ensure a consistent and co-ordinated approach to the incorporation of social considerations into public procurement procedures.

Information Note on Incorporating Social Considerations

The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) is keen to explore the opportunity for the inclusion of social considerations in public contracts where they are suited to the objective of the contract and would have the greatest impact. In this regard, in December 2018, it published an Information Note on Social Considerations. 

The purpose of the note is to help policy makers and practitioners understand how procurement can be used to facilitate the advancement of existing social policy objectives as well as the wider context and implications of including them in particular procurement projects. It sets out the ‘how’ in procurement process but the ‘what’ is a matter for policy Departments. 

The range of policy areas which come under the heading of social considerations is wide and includes, for example, environmental sustainability, disability access, training for young or disadvantaged people, labour standards etc. 

OGP, as a central purchasing body, cannot decide for other contracting authorities or at a whole-of-Government level what social considerations should be included in the frameworks and contracts that it puts in place on their behalf. However, it can help facilitate the process of incorporating those objectives, once agreed, into planned procurement projects.