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

As the Member will know, procurement is a heavily regulated area, not least as a result of European directives handed down from national government that we have to implement at regional government level at Stormont.  There seems to be positive progress in respect of the new set of EU procurement directives, which seem to be a little more responsive to and reflective of criticisms not just from Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom or Ireland but that the whole of Europe has been levelling against procurement across the European Union.

One issue that I think they specifically want to look at to assist small businesses is the turnover cap that prevents buyers from setting turnover requirements at more than twice the contract value.  I can recall cases where requirements for the likes of insurance or indemnity insurance were unnecessarily high and above and beyond what many small firms could tender for.  Without trying to twist or bend the rules in any way, we have always to be mindful in public procurement that our economy is dominated by microbusinesses and that, as we want to encourage them to avail themselves of public procurement opportunities, we do not set barriers of whatever nature so high that they will never surmount them.  It is an area that we are mindful of and where we have taken action, and it is an area where, I hope, the new EU procurement directives will assist us in taking further action.