Dáil debates

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Employment Support Services

9:00 am

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. My Department is at an advanced stage in its first phase of the two-phase procurement for regionally based employment services. The procurement has two key goals. First, it will see a significant expansion across the State of employment services for those furthest from the labour market. The regional employment services will have a strong focus on local and community linkages and will help to address the post Covid-19 employment challenge. Second, the procurement process will help to place the services on a proper contractual footing. The existing services were first contracted for more than 20 years ago and there has been no formal procurement process in the intervening years. This is not in compliance with standards of proper governance. In addition, I have advice from the Attorney General's office that it is not in compliance with Irish or EU procurement rules.

The procurement process follows extensive consultations by my Department with the existing service providers over the past number of years. The Department has taken a careful and measured approach, starting with a first-phase procurement in areas not already covered by a local employment service, LES. This minimises disruption to existing service providers and enables learnings to be taken and the request for tender, RFT, to be refined for the second phase of procurement.

The first-phase procurement is just about complete. The Department will engage further with service providers in the coming weeks to listen to their concerns arising from the first phase and, to the extent possible, take these into account in finalising the request for tender for the second-phase procurement. It is intended the second phase requests for tender will issue before the end of the year. Given the timelines involved in finalising the requests for tender, allowing for tenders to be prepared and evaluated, and contracts to be awarded, it is likely to be mid-2022 before the new contracts will be in place.


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