Paul Quinn, Government Chief Procurement Officer today announced that the new EU Procurement Directives have now been transposed into Irish law. In welcoming the changes Mr. Quinn commented:-
“The reforms will help to streamline public procurement processes and embed more simplified and flexible rules for the conduct of public procurement”.
The new Regulations cover public procurement both in the public service and in the utilities sector. They will allow authorities to conduct procurement more efficiently. They also provide a platform to advance economy-wide strategic goals in the area of environmental protection and social policy objectives. In addition, the Regulations reinforce the policy initiative taken in 2014 to improve SME access to procurement opportunities, including the division of contracts into lots and supporting consortia bids for larger contracts.
Greater use of electronic means of communication is a key feature of the new regime. Electronic notification of procurement opportunities and access to tender documents will now become mandatory and from October 2018, electronic submission of tenders will be mandatory.
Mr. Quinn added:
“Ireland has already embraced electronic communication in the procurement process with the eTenders portal (www.etenders.ie) that provides a central facility for public sector bodies to advertise procurement opportunities. For suppliers registered on the site it ensures maximum exposure to tendering opportunities within their business sector”.
With an annual procurement spend of approximately €12 billion it is essential that the State continues to seek better value for money from this expenditure. In this context, the new Regulations can support an enhanced role for the Office of Government Procurement and other central purchasing bodies in driving strategic procurement.
Mr. Quinn concluded:
“Public procurement must continue to be used as an instrument to drive better value for money outcomes for the taxpayer from the significant annual spend on goods supplies, services and works.”
Much of the new Public Authorities Contracts Directive (2014/24/EU: the “Classical”) and the Utilities Directive (2014/25/EU: Utilities) reflect the existing framework of procurement law. The reforms across both Directives are designed to improve the effectiveness of the regime and to codify recent procurement case law.
The incremental changes in these Regulations are intended to help streamline public procurement processes and embed more simplified and flexible rules for the selection of suppliers. This should allow public bodies to carry out procurement faster and with less ‘red tape’. In broader economic terms, the new features can facilitate better value for money outcomes for the taxpayer from public procurement and facilitate greater SME participation and access to public procurement opportunities. These Regulation provides for, among other things, the following:
o electronic methods of communication is now mandated in parts of the award process;
o use of a self-declaration (European Single Procurement Document) of compliance with selection and exclusion criteria by suppliers to reduce red tape;
o reduction in the time limits for receipt of tenders by 30%;
o explicitly allowing prior discussion with suppliers and independent experts, with safeguards against distorting competition or violating transparency and non-discrimination principles;
o simplifying the use of dynamic purchasing systems: the main features of DPS include : no time limit on duration; no need to advertise call-off contracts; suppliers can be added at any time; entirely electronic system.
o the discretion to divide public contracts into lots, with the proviso that opting not to lot contracts must be explained in the procurement documents;
o provision for “consortia bidding” to encourage SME involvement
o financial capacity criterion is now less demanding; it is generally limited to twice contract value;
o reform of the rules for Sheltered Workshops to encourage greater take-up; reduction in the percentage of employees with a disability from 50% to 30% and the inclusion of “disadvantage” in addition to “disability”
o particular contracts can be ring fenced (reserved) for social enterprises under certain conditions.
The current grounds for excluding suppliers (organised crime; corruption; fraud; money laundering) have been expanded to include terrorism; child labour; human trafficking.