Written answers

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Public Procurement Regulations

Photo of Michael LowryMichael Lowry (Tipperary, Independent)
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66. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he is taking to promote small and medium-sized enterprises' uptake procurement opportunities; if he will introduce extra supports for SMEs following Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45869/19]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) has developed a suite of policy measures aimed at assisting SMEs to access public procurement opportunities (implemented through Circular 10/14). These include:

- Proportionate financial capacity criterion (turnover requirements limited to twice the contract value)

- Contracting authorities are encouraged to divide public contracts into lots

- Provision for “consortia bidding” to assist SMEs to participate in procurement procedures where they would not have the relevant capability or scale

- Public bodies are required to advertise contracts for goods and services valued above €25,000 on the national eTenders portal

In addition, my colleague, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, who has responsibility for public procurement, chairs quarterly meetings of an SME Advisory Group, in accordance with the Programme for Government. This ensures that the voice of Irish SMEs (through the industry representative bodies ISME, IBEC, SFA, Chambers Ireland and CIF) is heard by Government. The Tender Advisory Service, which was re-launched in 2018, was set-up to assist SMEs with public procurement issues. This service is an initiative that was developed out of the SME Advisory Group.

The OGP proactively engages with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Inter-Trade Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to promote SME access to public procurement. The OGP participate at Go-2-Tender workshops and Meet the Buyer events held across the country which are designed to help SMEs.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has worked with Enterprise Ireland to ensure we have the appropriate mix of supports for businesses to prepare and manage through whatever Brexit we may face over the coming period. The joint Skillnet and Enterprise Ireland Clear Customs Scheme was launched on 7th August to help customs agents, intermediaries and affected Irish businesses deal with additional customs requirements. This is a free customs training programme delivered nationwide by Skillnet coupled with €3 million funding allocated to Enterprise Ireland for a support payment of up to €6,000 per employee to help with extra costs to manage customs compliance.

The large suite of supports available also include the Brexit Scorecard, Grant aid, Consultancy, Mentoring, Advisory Clinics, Agile Innovation Fund, Operational Excellence Offer and Market Discovery Fund. These supports help companies consider various risks such as supply chain vulnerabilities and act to mitigate against them. All of these supports are critical for businesses and exporters who are heavily exposed to the UK market in sectors such as construction, engineering and food.

The OGP has requested that industry representative bodies on the SME Advisory Group bring these support initiatives to the attention of their members.

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