The Government recognises the importance of the SME sector and continues to enhance the already substantial measures to support SMEs in accessing the public procurement market. Significant work has been undertaken by the Office of Government Procurement to ensure public procurement is accessible by all businesses. A group chaired by the Minister of State at the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy O'Donovan, chairs quarterly meetings of the SME advisory group. The membership of the group consists of officials from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, IBEC Ireland, the Small Firms Association, the Construction Industry Federation, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association and Chambers Ireland. In May 2017, a proposal was put to the group to raise the current threshold of €25,000, exclusive of VAT, for advertising on the eTenders website. The proposal was discussed at meetings of the group from September to December and it was clear at that point the majority of members were against increasing the advertising threshold at that point. The outcome was that the current threshold of €25,000 was maintained. Through the work of this advisory group and through the work the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, is doing, a suite of different changes have been made to try to support SMEs. Contracting authorities have been encouraged to divide public contracts into lots, work has been done to encourage SMEs to come together to put in bids for contracts that are of a scale that are bigger than they might be able to access on their own and public bodies are now required to advertise contracts for goods and services valued above €25,000 on the national eTenders portal. I know the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, is doing a huge amount of work in engaging with SMEs to try to ensure they are aware of the opportunities that are available to them. The most recent figures we have indicate 94% of the €4.7 billion expenditure available for procurement is with firms that have an Irish base.
The majority of the spend is with the SME sector.