My Department, including its diplomatic missions overseas, is subject to the same general rules on public procurement as other Irish central government bodies. In summary, these require contracts for supplies of goods (including food and beverage products) over €130,000 in value to be advertised in the Official Journal of the EU and to be awarded in accordance with legally binding rules on transparency, non-discrimination and other requirements. A minimum of six weeks must be allowed for tenderers to respond to such invitations, and the contracting authority must normally observe a further “standstill” period of 14 days to allow objections from disappointed tenderers before a contract can be formally entered into. On average, a procurement process subject to EU rules will take at least three months from the drafting of the tender documents to award of contract. Such contracts may normally be put in place for up to a maximum of four years, but three years tends to be the normal duration in practice.
Contracts between €25,000 and €130,000 in value must normally be procured by advertised competitive process in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and contracts under €25,000 may be procured by inviting competitive quotes from a number of suitably qualified suppliers. Contracts on this scale are not subject to the detailed timeline requirements of the EU Public Procurement Directive, but may nonetheless be subject to general provisions of the EU Treaties regarding non-discrimination and other matters. The Department’s headquarters in Ireland may occasionally have significant catering requirements that arise in the context of major international visits and events such as the EU Presidency in the period January-June 2013, when my Department arranged the procurement of catering services on behalf of all Departments.
The procurement of catering for the EU Presidency was subject to a competitive tender process for each of the six months in question. It was a specification of each tender that suppliers had to confirm that all beef, pigmeat, eggs, lamb, poultry and vegetable products were sourced from suppliers who were listed as Approved Members of An Bord Bia Quality Assurance Schemes. It would be truly exceptional for any of the embassies to have requirements for food and beverage products greater than the €25,000 threshold mentioned above in any one year, and most of their requirements are procured locally.
My Department and its missions work closely with the Irish promotional agencies including An Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Fáilte Ireland in relation to promoting Irish food and beverage products at appropriate events overseas, particularly during the St. Patrick’s Day period. If the Deputy has a particular producer or manufacturer in mind that he thinks has good quality products to offer in that context, he can provide me with further details and I will be happy to make enquiries to see what advice and support my Department can provide.