Tuesday, 28 July 2020
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Public Procurement Contracts
284. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the work of the cross-Departmental social considerations advisory group to promote and facilitate the incorporation of social considerations into public procurement projects; if this will include consideration of the ILO conventions 87 and 98, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18890/20]
Public procurement is governed by EU and national rules, the aim of which is to ensure that procurement transactions and decisions are open and transparent, fair, equitable and achieve value for money. Inclusion of social considerations has been specifically allowed for in the 2014 EU Directives on Public Procurement. As transposed, the 2016 Regulations require tenderers to comply with obligations in the fields of environmental, social and labour law that apply at the place where the works are carried out or the services provided and that have been established by European Union law, national law, enforceable national collective agreements or by international, environmental, social and labour law. The agreements and conventions which can be found in our national public procurement guidelines include, inter alia, the ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organise and the ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.
The Office of Government Procurement established the cross Departmental Social Considerations Advisory Group in March 2019, bringing together officials from policy Departments to share best practice and to facilitate the process of incorporating social and environmental considerations into public procurement. This cross-departmental group met three times in 2019. Due to the impact of Covid-19, it has been unable to meet so far this year. However, the OGP has held bilateral meetings and maintained contact with members throughout. Members are in the process of identifying appropriate social policy objectives in which social considerations can be advanced through the group. In addition to the work of the Social Considerations Advisory Group, officials from the OGP have also engaged in bilateral meetings with Government Departments and promoted the inclusion of social considerations in public procurement at number of procurement related events.
The OGP published Circular 20/2019: Promoting the use of Environmental and Social Considerations in Public Procurement in October 2019. The Circular highlights opportunities for Departments to deliver wider social and environmental aims through public procurement including in relation to employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged groups, disability access, promoting social inclusion and social enterprises.
The Circular was the latest in a series of measures following publication of the Information Note on Incorporating Social Considerations into Public Procurement in December 2018. The Information Note assists policy makers and practitioners in understanding how public procurement can be used to facilitate the advancement of existing social policy objectives as well as the wider context and implications of including them in particular public procurement projects.
It is worth noting that the OGP cannot decide for other contracting authorities, or at a whole-of-Government level, what social considerations should be included in the frameworks and contracts that it puts in place on their behalf. The OGP requires guidance from policy departments (and Government approval as appropriate) as well as the agreement of individual contracting authorities who are responsible for managing their own contracts and the associated costs. The appropriateness of including social considerations needs to be examined on a contract-by-contract basis and there needs to be sufficient flexibility to allow each individual contracting authority to decide what, how, and when social considerations can be used. The OGP facilitates the process of incorporating those objectives, once agreed, into planned procurement projects.
The Government has set out a number of commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to public procurement including evaluating and managing the environmental, economic and social impacts of procurement strategies within the state. I, along with my colleagues in Government, will be considering how best to implement the commitments in the Programme for Government, which contains a number of ambitious goals that directly correlate with the aims of the Social Considerations Advisory Group. Minister of State Smyth and I have met with the Chief Procurement Officer and will be seeking to build on the progress to date.
The Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF) represents the tools that a public body must use to procure and manage the external resources necessary to deliver a public works project that is to be delivered under the Exchequer-funded element of the National Development Plan.
A review of the policies and practices deployed in the procurement of public works projects commenced in March 2019. The focus of the review is on improving the delivery of construction projects in terms of quality, timely delivery and cost outcomes.
The review will deliver significant changes to the CWMF over the coming years. The review process involves extensive engagement led by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), both with industry stakeholders, and with the public bodies charged with the delivery of public works projects on a broad range of issues such as:
- price variation;
- risk management;
- creating a better quality: price balance in the award of contracts;
- adoption of BIM on public works projects;
- liability, indemnity and insurance requirements;
- performance evaluation;
- encouraging collaborative working.
A high-level strategy has been developed with the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC) to guide the implementation which will be addressed primarily through the progressive refinement and enhancement of the CWMF.
Whilst the onset of Covid-19 has impacted on the conduct of the review, progress is being made on a number of fronts.
- The initial focus is on the engagement of consultancy services, which is aimed at driving better project definition, in order to provide greater certainty for all those engaged in the construction stage. Overall improvement in project definition is required through establishing minimum standards for information at the different stages of a project’s development. A consultation paper was published in May 2019 setting out four measures that will improve the service provided:
1. Setting minimum standards for Project Briefs;
2. Establishing standard definitions for the scope of services required from the main consultancy appointments;
3. Linking the fee makeup to the scope of services;
4. Introducing clear reporting lines for each member of the design team with a particular focus on cost reporting.
Work is ongoing on the detailed implementation aspects which will be delivered throughout 2020 by means of changes to the template tender documents, publication of new guidance material and exploring digital solutions to the presentation of 2) and 3) above.
- A review of the price variation mechanisms used in both the CWMF consultancy and construction contracts is currently underway.
- Extensive engagement has taken place with the NSAI and other stakeholders in developing technical standards which will enable public bodies to procure Building Information Modelling services in a consistent manner across the NDP. An implementation plan for the adoption of BIM will be launched shortly setting out dates for a phased adoption of BIM.
- The OGP is engaging with key stakeholders on the issue of liability, indemnities and insurance and is also reviewing broader aspects of the required terms in the contracts used to engage design teams and contractors. A number of meetings have been held in February/March with further engagement necessary before a position paper is prepared for consultation purposes.
- Engagement is ongoing in developing standard metrics for life cycle costing and life cycle analysis that can be applied to the evaluation of projects’ cost of use in service and full life cycle analysis, including the carbon impact of individual projects. The OGP is liaising with the GCCC and the Irish Green Building Council in developing these metrics. A position paper will be published in Q4 of 2020 for public consultation.
- The Cost Control Templates published under the CWMF are undergoing review to incorporate the International Construction Measurement Standard (ICMS). A working group has been established and revised templates will be published in Q3 of 2020. ICMS is a global standard for benchmarking and reporting of construction project cost and covers both capital and whole life costing while providing a way of presenting costs in a consistent format.
The programme for public procurement reform commenced in 2013 as part of the overall public sector reform programme. A new public procurement model was established to deliver a more-centralised model of procurement for commonly sourced goods and services across the public service.
The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) was established in 2014 to drive the reform programme through the provision of policy interventions, advice and guidance, through the development of procurement solutions such as framework agreements, and through the analysis of public expenditure and tendering activity. Since then, significant progress has been made in enabling value-for-money, supporting compliant procurement, promoting SME participation, increasing communication and guidance, professionalising the practice of public procurement, and promoting transparency. Results from an independent survey of Government Departments and public bodies in 2018 recorded a high level of satisfaction with the services of the OGP.
The interim Procurement Reform Board (the Board) brings together representatives from across the OGP’s client bodies, its sector partners in Health, Education, Local Government and Defence, as well as independent external representatives. The Board oversees the procurement reform programme across the public service and the work of the OGP and promotes engagement with the new arrangements. The head of OGP, who is Government’s Chief Procurement Officer, is also a member of the Board. In 2019, the Board presented an annual report detailing its work in 2018 to me and I have published it. The Board expects to present its annual report for 2019 in the near future and I will again publish that.
Under the guidance of the Board, the OGP is leading on further possible reforms and is considering, through recent consultation with Government Ministers and Departments, its sector partners and industry stakeholders, refinements to the national model to continue to improve public procurement across government. The feedback from this stakeholder engagement will help to inform such proposals. My colleague, the Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Procurement, and I will engage with our colleagues in Government on them in due course.