Press Release

Public Procurement Can Deliver Greater Benefits For Local Communities

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Reference: F&P 04/09/10

Government purchasing power has the potential to deliver key economic and social benefits for the local community. That is the message from the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel which today launches a report into Public Procurement Policy and Practice in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the Assembly debate, Committee Chairperson, Jennifer McCann MLA, said: “The Government here spends upwards of £3 billion each year on supplies, services and construction work. If local firms are encouraged to bid for these contracts there could be real long term benefits for our local community.

“The Finance and Personnel Committee has carried out an extensive Inquiry and has worked with interested parties, including hosting a Stakeholder Conference, which gave all involved the opportunity to inform the recommendations that we are publishing today.

“My Committee believes that in achieving value for money, the Executive can use public procurement strategically, as a tool for assisting smaller enterprises in realising their full potential and for supporting longer-term economic and social well-being. We believe that this should and must be done.”

The Report, debated today in the Northern Ireland Assembly, contains more than 40 recommendations for the Northern Ireland Executive, the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Procurement Board.

Notes to Editors:
  1. Two of the key conclusions and recommendations from the Report on the Inquiry into Public Procurement Policy and Practice were:
  • The Committee believes that a ‘win-win situation’ will arise from increasing the number of indigenous smaller enterprises competing in the public sector supply chain. For the public sector there is the potential for better value for money, better levels of service and more innovative business solutions. For the smaller enterprises there is the benefit of access to a large and stable market, which also provides a basis for business growth and possible expansion into export markets. The Committee has made a range of practical recommendations in this regard.
  • The Committee senses a reticence amongst government commissioners and purchasers to pursue social benefit through procurement, which may be linked to a need for greater clarity both on the Executive’s policy intention in this area and on the definition and measurement of ‘social value’. As such, the Committee recommends that the Executive translates its Programme for Government commitments in this area into a clear policy directive on procuring social benefit, which sets out the priorities that should be pursued by all those responsible for government purchasing.
  1. The full list of recommendations can be accessed in the Report.
  2. The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry were to:
  • examine the experience of SMEs and SEEs in tendering for and delivering public contracts;
  • consider the nature, extent and application of social clauses within public contracts;
  • identify issues to be addressed and which are within the remit of DFP;
  • assess progress by DFP in achieving associated objectives and targets, including those contained in the Programme for Government (PfG) and related Public Service Agreements (PSAs); and,
  • make recommendations to DFP for improvements to public procurement policies and processes, aimed at increasing access to opportunities for SMEs and SEEs and maximising the economic and social benefits for the local community, whilst taking account of the principles governing public procurement.

 Information about the Committee

The Committee for Finance and Personnel is one of the statutory committees established by the Northern Ireland Assembly on 9 May 2007.

As per paragraph 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement, Statutory Committees have the power to:

  • consider and advise on departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
  • approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation;
  • call for persons and papers;
  • initiate inquiries and make reports; and,
  • consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by its Minister.

Committee Members:

Jennifer McCann (Chairperson) (Sinn Fein) 
Peter Weir (Deputy Chairperson) (DUP)

Dr Stephen Farry ( Alliance) 
Simon Hamilton (DUP) 
Fra McCann (Sinn Fein) 
Mitchel McLaughlin (Sinn Fein) 
David McNarry (UUP) 
Adrian McQuillan (DUP) 
Declan O’Loan (SDLP) 
Ian Paisley Jnr (DUP) 
Dawn Purvis (PUP)

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