SOUTH Down Sinn Féin recently organised an event in Downpatrick at the St Patrick Centre to help local businesses access contracts from the public sector. Speakers from the Central Procurement Division and Down District Council explained to local firms how to go about accessing this wide resource of potential business.[caption id="attachment_44913" align="alignleft" width="390"] A public procurement session held in the St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick organised by South Down Sinn Féin attracted a number of local businesses interested in securing central and local government tenders.[/caption]
Opening the meeting, South Down MLA Chris Hazzard said: “Many small and medium business in our area have explained to us that they would like to find out more on how they can access local and cenral government to win contracts and gain business.
‘We are still in a state of deep business recession and we must do what we can to get out of this. Our party will be running these procurement workshops across the North.
“Today we have representatives from Down District Council and the Central Procurement Division as key speakers which will hopefully open up this area of opportunity for local businesses.This event will help for businesses explore the complex area of public procurement – many businesses may have looked at this before but hopefully today it will give them a new boost and insight into this area.”
Naomi Bailie, local Sinn Féin candidate for the Downpatrick area in the May 2014 election, added: “After this event today, businesses will find that winning business may be that much more easy to understand. The process of applying will be much clearer. In 2011, 80% of businesses in the Greater Belfast area have under 12 employees and few businesses outside this area apply for procurement contracts which flies in the face of the Programme For Government.
“It is important too for businesses to be able to work together in partnership to make applications for contracts to central and local government.
“I would also add that we fully support the development of a business hub at the Downshire Estate and will be lobbying government departments to support this process over the coming months. Sinn Féin is keen too to support the growing renewable sector so that it moves ahead in South Down. In this respect, opportunity needs to be fair and competition needs to be accessible. We would like to empower local busineses and this is your opprtunity to get involved and be heard.’
Lila Clarke, Central Procurement Division, guest speaker, said: “There are around nine central organisations in Northern Ireland responsible for procurement in central government such as the Department of Finance and Personel, NIHE, DRD, and NI Water. The empahsis is on value for money.
“For the supply of goods and services below £30,000, you need to tap in to e-sourcingni.co.uk to register and bid. You will need to create a business profile and align this to a specific area of spend. Tenders below £30,000 are not publicly advertised. A random list from all suppliers is drawn up. You will need to get into the guidance notes and look around to become familiar with this process. You can work as a consortium, sub-contract, or be part of a collaborative group, or you can go at it alone.”
Check out e-sourcingni.co.uk
Stephen Wright, Down District Council Procurement Officer, the second guest speaker at the event, highlighted the processes involved in tendering for work in the local government sector and explained that there was not just one simple process but a number that local businesses need to address.
“Councils in Northern Ireland handle an overall £800 million budget spread across many departments such as Environmental Services, Recreation, Culture and Heritage etc. In Down District Council overall the spend is around £25 million a year. Princples of procurement include for example transparency, equality, participation and compliance. There is always a tension between the business providing value for money and achieving good value.
“The process of RPA and council mergers will change things and procurement will be under the new council formed between Down District and Newry and Mourne. In addressing a tender with a council, you need to engage with the person responsible for the particular budget as much as possible.
“Importantly, in evaluating applications for tender, the economic development brief indicates that Council can select if a tender appears equal with another but offers more community benefit. There will be more competition under the new RPA regime and businesses out of the general council area can deliver on community benefits too.
“If Council requires work done it can call for two quotes if the work is under £5000 and for five quotes if under £30,000. Small businesses can outcompete with larger businesses in this area.
Stephen Wright can be contacted at 028 44 610800 0r email: