Government Spending Power Should Boost Local Economy

Session: 2009/2010

Date: 30 June 2010

Reference: F&P 09/09/10

Government purchasing power should be used with greater effect to support the local economy. That was the message from the Committee of Finance and Personnel which today gave a cautious welcome to the response from the Procurement Board, to its recent Inquiry into public procurement in Northern Ireland. The Procurement Board is made up of all Departmental Permanent Secretaries and is chaired by the Finance and Personnel Minister.

Committee Chairperson, Jennifer McCann, MLA said: “In this era of increasing pressure on public expenditure, it is vital to provide opportunities for our local SMEs and those in the social economy sector. Government procurement is a key strategic tool which the Executive can use to help community based businesses.

“The Committee welcomes the Procurement Board’s action plan, considered at our meeting today. We are pleased to see the introduction of a Fair Payment Charter which will ensure sub-contractors receive the benefits from earlier payments to the main contractor. We also welcome the Board’s commitment to measure the benefit that a business can provide for their communities as part of the environment in which a tender application is judged.

“However, there is much work to be done in relation to the use of framework agreements. These agreements, which effectively pre-select companies entitled to tender for government contracts, were a key issue raised by stakeholders during our inquiry. We believe that it is also important to build the capacity of community based businesses and the Committee calls for the Board to address these issues.

”Further work is required to ensure that our communities get the most out of the long-term positive social, economic and environmental outcomes from public procurement expenditure. This commitment by the Procurement Board is a start.”

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