Procurement is key priority for Government and has undergone significant reform aimed at ensuring the 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 SME with a platform to take advantage of similar opportunities in Ireland and across the European Union.
Specifically, the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) have developed a suite of measures (circular 10/14) aimed at assisting SMEs to access public procurement opportunities. These include:
- Proportionate financial capacity criterion (turnover requirements limited to twice contract value);
- Contracting Authorities are encouraged to divide larger public contracts into lots;
- Provision for “consortia bidding” to assist SMEs to participate in procurement procedures where they would not have the relevant capability or scale; and
- Public bodies are required to advertise contracts for goods and services valued above €25,000 on the national eTenders portal.
In addition, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, who has responsibility for public procurement, chairs quarterly meetings of the SME Advisory Group, ensuring that the voice of Irish SMEs (including ISME, IBEC, SFA, Chambers Ireland, and CIF) is heard by Government.
The OGP proactively engages with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Inter-Trade Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to promote SME access to public procurement. The OGP participates at "Go-2-Tender" workshops and "Meet the Buyer" events which are also designed to help SMEs.
A series of information videos explaining specific public procurement topics, along with case studies of SMEs who have won government contracts, was launched by Minister of State O’Donovan earlier this year. A series of focused and targeted breakfast briefings has also been scheduled around the country in conjunction with Inter-Trade Ireland and the SME Advisory Group partners.
Currently, data on the award of public contracts does not generally capture the size of businesses that are successful. However, analysis carried and published by the OGP in the "Public Service Spend and Tendering Analysis for 2016" indicates that 94% of the analysed expenditure is with firms within the State and that the majority of the spend analysed is with SMEs. This was based on an analysis of €4.723 billion expenditure across 77 public service bodies.
The OGP will continue to proactively engage with business and strive to enhance the significant measures already in place to support SME access to public procurement opportunities.