Procurement Board: Social Value

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 10th November 2020.

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Photo of Martina Anderson Martina Anderson Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 10th November 2020

T2. Ms Anderson asked the Minister of Finance how the new Procurement Board will promote social value, so that government spending addresses issues such as poverty and deprivation, particularly in her constituency in Derry. (AQT 642/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

We have put forward propositions for the Procurement Board. It had intended to meet recently, but, because the proposals to revamp the Procurement Board were put in place, we need to seek additional personnel to go on to that and to change the make-up of the Procurement Board. Clearly, social value is a key part of that, and procurement can be used as an effective tool in achieving social outcomes. We have had discussions with them, and I know that the procurement people in the Department have been working on policies in relation to that. If the time frame allows it, we will also consider legislation, if that is required, in the next year before the end of the mandate, to enforce social value in procurement. Procurement by the Executive is a huge amount of money. It can be used not only to stimulate economic growth but in social value, and we want to ensure that that is a key part of government procurement and that of all public bodies.

Photo of Martina Anderson Martina Anderson Sinn Féin

Minister, most people will be glad to hear you say that you want a social value Act taken forward in this mandate. I believe that something in the region of £3 million is spent year-on-year on procurement, so, in the propositions that you mentioned, are you engaging or will that board be able to engage with other Departments to ensure that they embrace social value?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

It is £3 billion, actually. Procurement has an overarching function for the entire Executive and giving advice to public bodies generally, so any policies that the Procurement Board adopts will be decided by the Executive and therefore will apply across Departments. It is one thing to have policies agreed and the Procurement Board pursuing them, but it is about implementation and making sure that Departments follow through, right down through all levels of their responsibilities and those of their arm's-length bodies, and, indeed, influence other public bodies. There will be a key focus on those policies but also on implementation to make sure that that is carried through.