Public Procurement

Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 17th February 2014.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 2:00 pm, 17th February 2014

I thank the Member for his question.  In its role of supporting the procurement board, the Central Procurement Directorate has made significant progress in improving public procurement processes by making them less bureaucratic and more SME-friendly.  A number of improvements have been put in place, such as the publication of guidance notes on how to overcome barriers that may prevent local businesses and companies accessing procurement opportunities; making tendering opportunities easily available via a single portal; and simplifying the procurement process for lower-value procurements that are not subject to the same level of European legislation.  The directorate is working closely with construction and business representatives, and further areas being addressed include the standardisation of tender documentation and terms and conditions of contract; setting qualification requirements at levels that are proportionate to the contract; and introducing project bank accounts for construction contracts.  The measures, many of which address the recommendations arising from the Finance Committee's inquiry into public procurement, are making it easier for Northern Ireland suppliers to participate in tendering opportunities.  I look now to Executive colleagues to ensure that their Departments and arm's-length bodies implement those improvements with help and guidance from CPD.