Renua, a new political party in Ireland launched in March, is proposing reforms to public procurement to increase transparency, innovation and the involvement of smaller businesses.
Announcing the policy, the party's leader Lucinda Creighton said it believed all government purchasing decisions should aim to foster the growth of small businesses.
The Irish government spends approximately €13 billion (£9 billion) every year on goods purchased from private sector service providers, Renua said.
Creighton said there was a lack of national vision and direction behind the country’s public procurement strategy, and too much reliance on a one-size-fits-all ‘big government’ framework model, instead of more competitive localised lots.
Under the reforms Renua would introduce social impact clauses requiring government buyers of goods and services to consider the economic, social and environmental impacts of their purchasing. Failure to do so would be grounds for the suspension of the award process and/or an appeal to the ombudsman.
Under the new system, regionally-orientated tendering processes would be favoured over national framework agreements, to level the playing field between large and smaller companies.
A policy of mandatory training would be introduced for all buyers or procurement officers for government departments, with contracts in excess of €10,000 (£7,000) requiring advanced training. Procurement officers and buyers would be personally accountable for improperly awarded contracts.
If challenged, buyers would have to show contracts were awarded meeting EU and national regulations. Sanctions would be applied if they failed to do this, with a graduated bonus scheme for those that helped save money.
Renua also cited Barcelona’s public procurement process, where the overall problem itself is put out to tender, rather than the individual services, allowing more creative solutions to obtaining outcomes. Full e-procurement would be introduced in Ireland, making all expenditure and contracts traceable and eligible for monitoring and review.
Renua would extend the current remit of the ombudsman to include public procurement.
The public will also have access to the procurement database, with the ombudsman providing an annual report on the effectiveness of public procurement in Ireland. Its recommendations would be binding on government buyers.