Improving public procurement is an important commitment in the draft Programme for Government. Following a decision taken by the Executive Committee on 23 November 2000, a small implementation team is being established to take forward the findings and recommendations of a review undertaken prior to devolution. It is planned that the first meeting of the team will take place in February after its membership has been finalised. Further proposals which take account of the equality dimension will be brought forward by June 2001.
The findings of the initial review conducted prior to devolution indicated that if we were to set similar targets to those set for Departments in Great Britain we would achieve public procurement savings of £30 million out of a budget of £1 billion.
Such significant savings would fall to the devolved Administration to administer and direct, according to some of our own spending priorities. As we know, there are many pressing priorities being pursued by Departments and Committees in this Assembly. The more efficient we can make our procurement procedures and the more value for money we can get, then the more we can allocate to other public service needs.
Are there any mechanisms that can be employed against organisations who default in the various equality or fair employment legislation so they might not be able to avail of public procurement contracts?
Public procurement rules are guided not just by our priorities and concerns but by EU regulations also. Therefore, we try to ensure full conformity with EU regulations.
As regards the implementation team that I referred to, we are making provision to ensure that membership of that team will include people with particular expertise on equality matters. The potential for procurement arrangements to impact on equality is already recognised in various Departments’ equality schemes and in the Programme for Government. We will address the impact assessment of any policy as we map out the way ahead in pursuing the implementation of the key recommendations from the procurement review.