New Deal: Derry/Londonderry

Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 am on 20th October 2008.

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Photo of Raymond McCartney Raymond McCartney Sinn Féin 3:00 am, 20th October 2008

4. asked the Minister for Employment and Learning to outline the tendering criteria which informed the decision to award the tender to operate the New Deal Programme in Derry/Londonderry to A4e.            (AQO 790/09)

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

The contract for Steps to Work in the Foyle contract area has not been awarded. The procurement process is ongoing. All tenders for the Steps to Work programme were assessed against the criteria of methodology, relevant experience and capacity to deliver, and broken into sub-criteria.

Photo of Raymond McCartney Raymond McCartney Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a thabhairt don Aire as an fhreagra sin.

Will the Minister outline why it was necessary to rerun the tendering process after A4e was awarded preferred-bidder status?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP 3:15 am, 20th October 2008

: The Member must bear in mind that the process is ongoing and, while that is the case, I must be careful about what I say. The procurement process has not been concluded in two remaining areas. New bids have been received for the Foyle area and those will be assessed shortly, and further information has been received for the north-west. However, the process is ongoing in the Foyle area, and I am unable to say anything further.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party

I understand the constraints that the Minister has referred to. However, on the wider aspect of the Steps to Work programme, the Minister must be aware that many people believe that the Central Procurement Directorate appears to be acting to some sort of imperative to ensure that outside players are successfully brought into the market. Rightly or wrongly, that is the impression that people have.

How far are the decisions on methodology, relevant experience and capacity to deliver taken by his Department, and how far are they taken by the Central Procurement Directorate, which may have little experience in that area?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

: I understand through correspondence and other contacts that the Member has a keen interest in the matter. The Central Procurement Directorate is not attempting to ensure that outside people are brought in. Having agreed the terms of reference for the contracts with my Department, the Central Procurement Directorate must implement those terms of reference and assess the bids that have been made. If that results in someone who is not based here being awarded a contract, that is within European Union rules and regulations. There is no predisposition to ensure that someone from outside is awarded a contract, any more than there is a predisposition to award a contract to a local firm. If the process is to be fair and open, it must be based on objective criteria, which is why we hand over the process to the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD), which has the expertise to deal with the situation.

The Department’s role is, primarily, to set out what is required. As a former Minister of Finance and Personnel, the Member knows that the CPD’s role is to ensure that proper and due process is followed correctly.