I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 137 together.
My Department does not hold details of the number or value of non-compliant tenders requested by the Deputy. Individual Accounting Officers are responsible for ensuring that their public procurement functions are discharged in line with the standard accounting and procurement rules and procedures and that contract prices are fair and reasonable and represent best value for money.
Public Procurement is governed by EU and National rules. The aim of these rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It is a basic principle of public procurement that competitive tendering should be used except in justifiably exceptional circumstances. The EU Directives acknowledge that there can be legitimate reasons for awarding contracts without the use of a competitive process, such as extreme urgency brought about by unforeseeable events or where there is a single supplier to perform the contract. Consequently, a procurement without a competitive process is not necessarily non-compliant with procurement rules.
Department of Finance Circular 40/02 places the obligation on Government Departments and Offices to report all contracts above €25,000 (exclusive of VAT) awarded without a competitive process to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) by 31 March of the following year. The C&AG publishes this information in the Appropriation Accounts. These reports are copied to the Office of Government Procurement for information. Circular 40/02 further states that contracts awarded without a competitive process should be subject to an internal review, preferably by the Internal Audit Unit or alternatively by an appropriate senior officer who is not part of the procurement process.
The Office of Government Procurement supports compliance with the procurement rules by putting in place compliant procurement solutions, publishing guidelines and template documentation and proactive engagement with Government Departments and Offices including our sourcing partners in the Health, Education, Defence and Local Government Sectors through the Procurement Executive.
Circular 10/14 sets out a number of measures Contracting Authorities should implement to assist SMEs in competing for public contracts as follows.
- Proportionate financial capacity criterion (turnover requirements limited to twice the contract value)
- Contracting authorities are encouraged to divide 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
- Public bodies are required to advertise contracts for goods and services valued above €25,000 on the national eTenders portal.
Contracting Authorities are reminded that any measures undertaken must be implemented in accordance with the principles of EU law, and in a manner that is fully compliant with EU public procurement law and national guidelines.