The Social Considerations Advisory Group, chaired by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), meets quarterly and brings together relevant officials from policy Departments with procurement practitioners to facilitate the process of incorporating social and environmental considerations into public procurement. Established in March, this cross-departmental group has met three times in 2019. Members are in the process of identifying pilot projects or appropriate social policy objectives in which social considerations can be advanced through the group.
To further support the incorporation of social considerations into public procurement, my Department published in October, Circular 20/2019: Promoting the use of Environmental and Social Considerations in Public Procurement. The circular highlights the possibilities for Departments to deliver wider social and environmental aims through public procurement including in relation to employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged groups, disability access, promoting social inclusion and social enterprises.
To help policy makers and practitioners understand how procurement can be used to facilitate the advancement of existing social policy objectives as well as the wider context and implications of including them in particular procurement projects, the OGP published an information note on incorporating social considerations into public procurement last December which is available on ogp.gov.ie.
In addition to the work of the Social Considerations Advisory Group, officials from the OGP have also engaged in bilateral meetings with Government Departments to promote the inclusion of social considerations in public procurement.
It is worth nothing that OGP cannot decide for other contracting authorities, or at a whole-of-Government level, what social considerations should be included in the frameworks and contracts that it puts in place on their behalf. The OGP requires guidance from policy departments (and Government approval as appropriate) as well as the agreement of individual contracting authorities who are responsible for managing their own contracts and the associated costs. The appropriateness of including social considerations needs to be examined on a contract-by-contract basis and there needs to be sufficient flexibility to allow each individual contracting authority to decide what, how, and when social considerations can be used. The OGP can help facilitate the process of incorporating those objectives, once agreed, into planned procurement projects.