I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 to 175, inclusive, together.
The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) and its sector partners in Health, Education, Defence and Local Government, put in place central arrangements (Framework Agreements) through which public bodies (contracting authorities) can purchase common goods and services.
In relation to the subject matter of this question, the OGP carried out a competitive tender process for the establishment of a Framework Agreement for the provision of External Workplace Investigation Services for central government departments and other public bodies. The purpose of this particular framework agreement was to establish a panel of external professional investigators to conduct formal workplace investigation services. This framework went live on 27th March 2015 for a four year term with an expiry date of 26th March 2019. A new replacement framework of external professional investigators to conduct formal workplace investigation services was established on 30th April 2019.
The last supplementary requests for tenders processed by the Office of Government Procurement in advance of the commencement of the replacement framework for such investigations was received on 28th February 2019. The OGP ceased taking supplementary requests for tenders and facilitating further competitions from potential framework clients on 5th March 2019. The date the last award was notified to the successful framework member was 9th April 2019.
While the OGP facilitates competitions under this framework for both Central Government and non-Central Government, and acts in an advisory role in this respect, the individual public bodies are accountable and responsible for these competitions and any subsequent contracts. Furthermore, public bodies may tender for such services themselves in circumstances where their needs are not met by central arrangements or where they can secure better value in the marketplace. Any investigations conducted using the 2015 framework or the replacement framework are a matter for the relevant Contracting Authorities.