Wednesday 27 March 2019 02:40:11 AM

Hamilton Highlights Importance of Government Procurement System
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Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA today underlined the critical role that public procurement plays in Northern Ireland’s economy and outlined the clear need for engagement between government, the industry, businesses and social economy representatives.

The Minister was responding to a motion in the Assembly today which was critical of the current government procurement system.dn_screen

Simon Hamilton said: “Today’s motion has provided me with the opportunity as Finance Minister with responsibility for procurement to clarify how public procurement operates and to quell the misperceptions that the current procurement system is deliberately rigid and inflexible placing local Small, Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Social Economy Enterprises at a significant disadvantage when bidding for government work.

“I appreciate the criticism being levied at the public procurement process and understand that people have issues but I can assure the business industry that procurement in Northern Ireland is not rigid or inflexible, it is not bad for local SMEs, it is not out of step with other devolved regions and it is not lacking in innovation. However, my Department will not sit back and think everything is perfect and that there is no further room for improvement.”

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA

Addressing a number of concerns the Minister said: “Procurement has changed for local SMEs including streamlining procedures and reducing paperwork associated with low value procurements both of which are important to small businesses; reducing liability and insurance requirements by making them proportionate to the risks associated with the contract; and promoting prompt payments and fair conditions of contract for construction sub-contractors by putting monitoring and reporting arrangements in place in main contracts.

“Contrary to perceptions, local businesses already win the majority of public procurement contracts in Northern Ireland with some 80% of all contracts awarded in 2011/2012 going to SMEs- this compares to 82% in Scotland and 60% in Wales.

“Northern Ireland has been at the forefront of public procurement developments in the UK and the strategic approach adopted by the Executive has been endorsed by public procurement reviews in Scotland and Wales both recommending similar governance arrangements.”

Referring to lack of innovation the Minister continued: “Northern Ireland is open for business and government has recognised that the buying power of the public sector has a major role to play in stimulating companies to develop new innovative solutions. The Executive has now put in place funding for a team of innovative procurement initiatives including one within my own Department. 

Concluding the Minister said: “Delivery of infrastructure investment is about much more than procurement. My officials have been working with the Strategic Investment Board to commission a review of the whole delivery system which will bring forward proposals to ensure that the commissioning, planning, procurement and delivery of major infrastructure investment projects resulting in value for money. We will continue to work closely with the industry, businesses and social economy representatives in trying to achieve the same goal of rebalancing and rebuilding Northern Ireland’s economy ensuring public procurement remains a key driver in the economy.”