SFA raises member concerns at government procurement working group

Last week, the SFA participated in the latest meeting of the government’s Working Group on SME Access to Public Procurement. The group brings together a range of stakeholders on this issue, including the government Chief Procurement Officer; officials from the Office of Government Procurement, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland; and a number of business groups. 

The meeting was chaired by Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan; it was his first meeting in the chair since being named Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment in June. The Minister was keen to hear the obstacles that exist for small businesses in accessing public contracts.

One issue that the SFA put onto the agenda was the high rate of cancellation/non-progression of tenders after companies have invested valuable resources in developing their bid. There has been a sharp increase in situations of this nature reported to SFA, including outright cancellation of competitions, non-progression of competitions without official cancellation, firms succeeding in being named as a framework supplier but no mini-competitions arising and companies being awarded a contract but the start date being postponed indefinitely. The SFA emphasised that there is a significant cost to small companies in bidding for contracts, including a notable opportunity cost, and they have a reasonable expectation of the competition/contract proceeding as advertised.

The Office of Government Procurement responded that there are a range of reasons that these scenarios may arise. Officials committed to reporting back to the group with more information including statistics around this issue. They also encouraged representative bodies to refer specific cases to them as they arise.

If you would like to discuss any public procurement issues with the SFA or would like us to bring an issue to the attention of government on your behalf, contact Linda Barry, SFA Assistant Director, on 01 605 1626 or linda.barry@sfa.ie

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