29 July 2009 | Helen Gilbert
New measures to improve public sector construction procurement in Northern Ireland have been unveiled by finance minister Sammy Wilson.
The 25 proposed actions include slashing bidding costs for suppliers and structuring procurement and contracts in a way that provides opportunities for vendors of all sizes.
The recommendations were set out in the Construction Industry Forum for Northern Ireland Procurement Task Group Report, prepared in partnership with the construction industry in Northern Ireland.
The body was asked by former finance minister Nigel Dodds to examine how government could improve its procurement practices in the current economic crisis.
Recommendations include reducing costs for those submitting pre-qualification questionnaires by ensuring they are "consistent, proportionate to the size and complexity of the contract and structured in a way that enables all enterprises which have the required capacity and capability to compete".
The report added the government should aim to reduce the likelihood of legal challenges by maximising opportunities for suppliers and establishing early warning systems for potential disputes.
Wilson said in a statement: "I welcome the report's focus on how the visibility of government construction procurement opportunities will be enhanced to facilitate workload planning by all sectors of the industry; how opportunities for enterprises of all sizes to benefit from public sector contracts will be maximised; and how the cost and timescale of the pre-qualification process will be reduced, as will the bidding costs of all parties."