05 June 2008 | Jake Kanter
Public sector purchasers in Northern Ireland have been urged to help build a "peaceful, fair and prosperous society".
A new report, developed by Northern Ireland's Central Procurement Directorate and Equality Commission, said buyers must ensure purchasing practices contribute to equality of opportunity and sustainability goals in the country.
Public procurement accounts for £1.9 billion of supplies, services and construction works, and its role in delivering greater equality should not be "underestimated" according to finance minister Peter Robinson.
The guide, Equality of Opportunity and Sustainable Development in Public Sector Procurement, details best practice with the aim of promoting equal opportunities for suppliers and sustainable targets. It said these goals must be fully assessed and advertised before a contract is drawn up. This could include initiatives on employment, the environment and use of sustainable materials.
Once objectives are set out, they need to be specified clearly to contractors. This may involve detailing a building project, which has the aim of regenerating a geographical region.
The report added when selecting a supplier, the lifetime of a contract must provide value for money and be consistent with EU regulations. And once an agreement is in place, it should be monitored for delivery on targets. If a vendor decides to adopt energy efficiency standards, for example, they must be maintained.