Thursday, 23 September 2021
Ceisteanna Eile (Atógáil) - Other Questions (Resumed)
13. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider instituting a change in the tendering process which would facilitate further submissions to be made after a closing date, similar to the recent changes in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45570/21]
My question is on the tendering process and when a tender is submitted, where there is a variation between tenders one and five and a 16% gap in the amount being tendered. There is no process or provision for further engagement if there is a sudden increase in the cost of delivering a project between the time the tender is submitted and the time it is accepted by a Department. Can the regulations dealing with tendering be changed to accommodate that?
Public procurement is governed by EU legislation and national rules and guidelines with the aim of promoting an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. The EU public procurement regime is set out in a suite of EU procurement directives.
Article 56(3) of the principal directive governing procurement rules for public bodies gives contracting authorities discretion as to whether to accept further submission of documentation after the closing date of a tendering process providing this is done in compliance with the principles of transparency and equal treatment. This provision enables errors or omissions in tender submissions to be remedied where in accordance with the principles of equal treatment and transparency. For example, it might allow for the further submission of licences, insurance documentation and so on, if omitted in error in the tender competition.
Any additional information or clarification provided cannot materially alter the substance of the tender submission. The provision in the directive is not intended to admit additional tenders to competitions once the submission date and time for tenders under the competition rules has passed or to allow for material changes in tender submissions, such as changes to specifications or price.
Procurement procedures in Northern Ireland were regulated up to the end of 2020 by the same directive and are now covered by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. In that context, it is expected that procedures operating in Northern Ireland will be analogous to the EU rules.
It is a complex area. The Office of Government Procurement is happy to engage with the Deputy on the details. Of course, in any normal competition, there is a deadline. If the deadline is changed for one of the participants, that could lead to an unfair situation. We must consider the matter within that context. There is a legal framework that allows for submissions after deadline in specific circumstances.