Press Release

Public Procurement Recommendations Welcomed by Local Enterprises

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 22 April 2010

Reference: F&P 06/09/10

Steps to improve opportunities for smaller businesses and social enterprises to bid for public contracts should be implemented quickly. That’s the response from local stakeholders to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel’s recent Report into public procurement in Northern Ireland.

Responding to the feedback Committee Chairperson, Jennifer McCann MLA, said: “We received very positive feedback from the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, stakeholders in the private and voluntary sectors and the trade unions. This response emphasises not only the importance of public procurement to local businesses and communities, but also the need to maximise the long-term beneficial social, economic and environmental outcomes of procurement expenditure.

“In particular stakeholders from all sectors have welcomed our recommendations which seek to improve access to procurement opportunities for local small and very small businesses. These recommendations will also maximise social benefit; something that we should all be striving for.

“With upwards of £3 billion spent each year on public procurement here, it is vital that the Report recommendations are acted on. As a Committee we therefore welcome the initial response from Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, who has indicated that the report will have a major part to play in further developing procurement policy. We look forward in the coming weeks to receiving his Department’s full response and implementation plan.”

The Report on the Inquiry into Public Procurement Policy and Practice was launched in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 23 February and contains over 40 recommendations for the Northern Ireland Executive, the Procurement Board and the Department of Finance and Personnel.

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 at
  2. The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry into Public Procurement Policy and Practice:
  • 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)

David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson) (UUP)

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

Further information on the work of the Committee is available on the Committee pages of the Northern Ireland Assembly website:

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