7 Tips for Accessing Public Procurement
Public Procurement in Ireland is worth an estimated €8.5 billion annually. Analysis carried out by the Office of Government Procurement last year indicates that around 93% of contracts are awarded to companies within the State, meaning there is ample opportunity for Irish businesses to compete to win contracts, writes Mark O'Mahoney of Chambers Ireland.
Winning a public contract can be a huge boost to any business, particularly SMEs. The procurement process, however, is often criticised for being unnecessarily onerous and difficult to navigate for many businesses. Nonetheless, the potential benefits from a winning tender means that public procurement is something that a business cannot afford to ignore.
These are our top tips for accessing public procurement:
1. Register on eTenders
eTenders is a central Government website where all public sector contracting authorities advertise procurement opportunities and award notices. The site displays, on a daily basis, all Irish public sector procurement opportunities currently being advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), as well as other lower-value contracts uploaded to the site from awarding authorities. Businesses should register on eTenders to make sure they are kept up to date on any potential procurement opportunities.
2. Make yourself aware of current procurement practices
In recent months, the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) has made a number of changes to their procurement policy to make it more transparent, efficient and, importantly, to improve access for SMEs. However, recent research shows that many businesses are not aware of these changes and what is expected of contracting authorities when evaluating a tender. Keep up to date on current developments by checking the latest news on www.procurement.ie. One of the most recent guidance notes, Circular 10/14 is of particular relevance for SMEs.
3. Be aware of the requirements for each individual tender
Each individual tender will have a range of specific requirements. These can range from evidence of experience and organisational capacity to turnover requirements. Drafting a tender can be a long and time-consuming process, so make sure that your business meets all of the basic specified requirements before applying for a contract.
4. Be prepared to partner
Many SMEs have the ability and skills to undertake a contract but may lack the capacity to completely fulfil it. While some contracts might be divided into lots to facilitate smaller suppliers, SMEs may need to partner with other companies when bidding for a contract. Forming consortia of smaller businesses is an excellent way to pool expertise and resources to bid for larger contracts.
5. Make use of the supports available to SMEs
The Office of Government Procurement, Enterprise Ireland and InterTrade Ireland, amongst others, have a wide range of supports for SMEs looking to win public sector contracts. These include Meet the Buyer events, Go-2-Tender Workshops and more general information and advice. Make use of the expert knowledge and advice available to improve your tendering chances.
6. Use your size to your advantage
While many SMEs feel excluded from the procurement process, they have a number of advantages relative to larger firms that they can capitalise on. Contracting authorities are encouraged to accept new and innovative solutions, and SMEs developing new technologies can use procurement as an opportunity to demonstrate the merits of their product. Having a successful public contract with the Irish State can open doors internationally if and when the SME decides to expand overseas.
7. Make use of the new Tender Advisory Service
The Tender Advisory Service is a new service launched earlier this year, which allows suppliers (especially SMEs) to raise concerns about a particular live tender process with officials in the Office of Government Procurement. The service is free of charge and allows suppliers to raise any concerns or issues they have with an open tender. The service was developed with SMEs in mind and the OGP intends to analyse the issues raised during the ongoing reform of the public procurement process.
Public procurement in Ireland is a big business – one which SMEs must to be part of. Chambers Ireland continues to work with the Office of Government Procurement to support better access and consideration for SMEs in the public procurement process.
Written by: Mark O'Mahoney, Director of Policy and Communications, Chambers Ireland
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