Public procurement is a priority for the Government and has undergone significant reform aimed at ensuring sustainable delivery of much-needed public services, while also encouraging and supporting SME participation in these business opportunities. This approach is beneficial for the State because it nurtures competition, which ensures value for money is maintained, and provides SMEs with a platform to take advantage of similar opportunities in Ireland and throughout the European Union. Specifically, the OGP has developed a suite of policy measures aimed at assisting SMEs to access public procurement opportunities. These include proportionate financial capacity criteria, contracting authorities being encouraged to divide public contracts into lots, provision for consortia bidding, and public bodies being required to advertise on the national eTenders portal contracts for goods and services valued above €25,000.
In addition, my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for procurement, Deputy O’Donovan, chairs quarterly meetings of an SME advisory group, in accordance with the programme for Government. This ensures that the voice of SMEs is heard by the Government. The tender advisory service, which was relaunched in 2018, was set up to assist SMEs with public procurement issues. The service is an initiative developed out of the SME advisory group. The OGP proactively engages with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, InterTrade Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to promote SME access to public procurement. It participates at Go-2-Tender workshops and meet the buyer events held throughout the country, which are designed to help SMEs. The most recent analysis, which was made available in 2016, pointed out that 94% of the spend under the remit of the OGP fell within the State, while 53% was to SMEs.