I propose to take Questions Nos. 592 to 594, inclusive, together.
EU public procurement rules apply to all Member States within the European Union. Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement (goods, services and works) has been transposed into Irish Law in the form of corresponding Regulations under SI No. 284 of 2016 which forms the legal basis for the national rules governing public procurement. The aim of these regulations is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime that delivers best value for money. The legislative basis for public procurement in Ireland remains fully aligned with regulatory norms throughout the EU.
Public procurement reform was a key aspect of the overall public service reform programme launched in 2011. As a result, the Office of Government Procurement was established in 2013 to deliver:
- Greater integration of procurement policy, strategy and operations in one office;
- Strengthening of spend analytics and data management;
- Much greater aggregation of purchasing across public bodies to achieve better value for money; and
- Strengthening of vendor and category management.
The Procurement Reform Programme has had considerable success to date. Governance arrangements have been established to foster collaboration and cooperation across the main sectors of Central Government, Health, Local Government, Education and Defence. Through the development of a suite of centralised arrangements, the Government’s purchasing power has been leveraged by speaking to the market with ‘one voice’. Procurement Reform has delivered a programme of policy supports for SMEs, and has built an awareness in industry regarding the opportunities arising from public procurement. Data has been gathered from across multiple bodies to bring insight to procurement spending.
However the focus now, in line with the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future, is to further develop the potential of strategic procurement, with an emphasis on sustainability and social considerations, public works reform and innovation. While value for money remains a key consideration, the strategic use of public procurement will support green, social and innovation policies strategic objectives in line with the Programme for Government, international developments and EU priorities such as the Green Deal and digitalisation.
The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) has responsibility for the National Public Procurement Policy Framework which sets the overarching policy framework for public procurement in Ireland. The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) facilitates a cohesive flow of procurement activity by providing procurement solutions, advice, guidance and systems for public bodies, promoting good practice (via Information Notes, Circulars, Guidelines and dealing with ad hoc queries) and proactive engagement with our sourcing partners in the Health, Education, Defence and Local Government Sectors through the Procurement Executive. This enables a consistent approach to public procurement across the public sector.
The OGP has also been proactive in the area of Strategic Procurement with the publication of Circular 20/2019: Promoting the use of Environmental and Social Considerations in Public Procurement and the Information Note on Incorporating Social Considerations into Public Procurement. In addition, the Strategic Procurement Advisory Group was established in March 2019. This group aims to promote and facilitate the incorporation of social considerations, including environmental considerations, into public procurement projects. My colleague, Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD, chairs the SME Advisory Group which provides a forum for Small Medium Enterprises to discuss procurement issues for the SME sector. In addition, the Tender Advisory Service (TAS) is a free of charge service for suppliers to raise concerns in relation to perceived barriers for suppliers in competing for tender opportunities.
My Department will continue the enhancement and refinement of guidance, systems, reporting, and engagement to assist public procurement practitioners to procure on behalf of the State effectively and efficiently to achieve value for money for the Exchequer.