02 August 2007 | Paul Snell
Public software contracts in the Republic of Ireland should be broken up to give small Irish firms a better chance of winning them, according to an industry group.
The Irish Software Association (ISA) has urged the government to help smaller domestic firms secure public sector contracts over multinational companies. The Irish government spent ?260 million (£174.7 million) on technology in 2004, the most recent figures available.
"The public procurement process often militates against innovation and promotes conservative approaches that favour established suppliers or in-house builds," said Pat Brazel, chairman of the ISA. "While there has been limited success for Irish software companies in the local public sector market, challenges remain when trying to access other parts of the sector."
The ISA wants tenders in Ireland to become less restrictive. This could include dividing them into smaller lots, a method tried in Germany. It also suggested allowing smaller firms to form consortia to compete for larger contracts. "Relatively minor improvements [to the public procurement system] would significantly enhance the ability of smaller firms to compete on a level playing field," Brazel said.
A spokesman for the Irish Department of Finance, which is responsible for purchasing, said the government had published guidelines in May on improving SME involvement following consultation with the ISA. But, he added, the department was "anxious to see greater involvement by SMEs and small and micro enterprises in public sector procurement."