The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said it was currently carrying out an “ambitious” reform programme of the procurement function across the public service.
“Broadly speaking, the main objectives of this reform are to professionalise how procurement is conducted in the State and to ensure services are delivered in a sustainable manner in a cost-effective way for citizens,” it said.
“In carrying out these reforms, the Government is committed to ensuring that small and medium enterprises are encouraged to participate in procurement opportunities and to maximising the social benefits, such as employment and training opportunities, that can be delivered under public contracts.”
Last year, the department approved a pilot initiative under the Devolved Schools Programme to assess the benefits of such social clauses. The pilot projects required the contractor to recruit a percentage of those employed on a public works construction site from the ranks of the long-term unemployed. It said initial feedback from that scheme had been positive.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said he had been examining maximising the potential of public contracts to deliver social benefits.
“Social clauses can be used in public procurement in cases where they are targeted at issues such as employment opportunities and social inclusion,” he said.
“In order to be compatible with EU law, they must be made known to all interested parties and must not restrict participation by contractors from other member states.”
In order to make the best use of the clauses, a project group lead by the Office of Government Procurement is to be established which will put forward projects where social clauses would be inserted into the contract to address employment and training.
The department said the group will have the following functions:
* The departments with responsibility for employment and training will identify the important social considerations and actively assist the procuring bodies and successful tenderers through the provision of training, accreditation;
* The OGP will assist departments/agencies in the design of the social clause most suited to the specific contract;
* The procuring body will monitor the impact of the social clause(s).
Mr Howlin said: “This is a complex area and I want to ensure that we learn from practical experience here and the experience in other jurisdictions to develop a robust social procurement framework.”