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16 April 2014 | Paul Snell
The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) in Ireland should be moved out of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform into the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, according to Chambers Ireland.
The business representative group said it would be a “symbolic and practical move” to demonstrate that the long-term priority for procurement is to stimulate the economy, employment and innovation, rather than just to save money.
The recommendations are made in a report A Strategic Public Procurement Policy for Ireland, to highlight how public purchasing can benefit the wider economy, rather than just drive cost savings.
Other proposals in the report include reducing the number of contracts awarded on price alone, inserting social clauses into contracts, introducing an equivalent of CompeteFor - the website established for the London 2012 Olympics to allow SMEs access to the supply chains of prime contractors, and simplifying the pre-qualification process.
Additional suggestions were breaking contracts up into lots, making “the entire process of public procurement fully transparent” to help suppliers understand why they have not been successful, and the establishment of an independent review body to adjudicate and provide redress for suppliers who feel they have been treated unfairly.
Chambers estimates 8.8 per cent of public contracts worth €800 million (£661 million) leave Ireland, higher than the EU average of 3.5 per cent, because SMEs “feel excluded from the process”.
“The growth of indigenous Irish business is the single most important contributor to a sustainable economic recovery. If acted on, this strategy could result in a procurement policy of benefit to both buyers and suppliers. Crucially, however, it would also benefit all public procurement stakeholders and would contribute to a far-sighted, sustainable economic recovery,” said Chambers’ chief executive Ian Talbot.
A spokeswoman for the OGP told SM: “The OGP is key to bringing a more professional and whole of government approach to procurement. The OGP will continue to ensure that public procurement is accessible by all business, including SMEs. The Office is working with industry representatives to improve supplier education through initiatives such as meet the buyer events which have been running since 2010 and the very popular Go 2 Tender programme, to standardise and simplify the processes for suppliers, and finally to reduce impediments and unnecessary bureaucracy in procurement. It will shortly be issuing new instructions to public sector buyers that will accelerate some of the key business-friendly initiatives under the new EU Public Procurement Directives which were agreed under the recent Irish EU Presidency. The changes will further reduce barriers for businesses and continue to promote openness to tendering opportunities through the public service tendering portal."