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Procurement Across Ireland

10 Apr 2019

Marc Bentley

After attending Procurex last week, Marc Bentley consultant with Brightwater’s Supply Chain & Logistics division discusses the current landscape for public sector procurement in the Ireland.

As a recruiter specialising in the supply chain & logistics sector, it’s always important for me to keep up to date with what’s going on in the market and to keep abreast of any developments. With this in mind, I attended Procurex on Thursday 4th April in the RDS to find out the latest trends and developments in the procurement market.

Procurex is an event that focuses on procurement and supply chain market place on the island of Ireland and covers both the public and private sectors. The purpose of the event is to bring buyers and suppliers together from around the country and to offer both advice and support on all aspects of the procurement process.

One of the jaw dropping reveals of the event was the amount spent by the public sector in procurement. While it’s understandable given the nature of their remit, to see it in black and white only illustrates the broad sphere of activity of the sector itself and emphasises the need to consistently review suppliers in order to reduce costs and gain efficiencies. This is something that only experienced buyers can truly understand and implement.  Over €10bn is spent every year in procurement with the largest proportion spent on the healthcare system across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  The biggest cheque book on the island of Ireland is in the hands of Paul Quinn, Chief Procurement Officer with the Office of Government Procurement in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Paul is extremely experienced in the field of procurement having won the Procurement Leader of the Year Award in his previous role with Eircom in 2014. To illustrate the extensive breadth of his role, his state spend is €23million a day on supplies and services. That represents a huge portion of the procurement market on the island.

Public procurement has changed over the last number of years through refinement and change eg. increased support through new directives and solutions. During Procurex, there was a session explaining support mechanisms that have been put in place to help companies tender for business for the public sector. A new simplified process has been implemented to help both new and existing bidders. There were two main points highlighted:

1. Operational – such as framework agreements and bespoke contracts which are commercial agreements enabling enable public sector buyers to buy through the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). They have an enormous pool of clients across the public sector and they vary from large clients like the HSE, Gardai, Revenue Commissioners all the way down to single room schools in rural Ireland. They have a huge range of solutions which have to be robust and able to cater for all of those such as the HSE looking to buy a thousand computers or a single room school looking to buy two. Suppliers to the public sector have to provide solutions to meet all of those needs. The OGP also offers a lot of support for bidders but also for their internal clients.They provide guidance material through their website and helpdesk for both sides of the process; buying or supplying.

2. Policy advice to government: The OGP also deals with the entire cabinet to provide advice on public procurement matters.  Within the Irish economy, public procurement equates to €1 in every €10, (relatively small when compared to the defence budget) but it is of huge importance and it’s vital to understand where public money goes and how it’s being spent.

Brexit also has had a huge effect on procurement, not just for the private sector but for the public sector. It is an extraordinary time of uncertainty for the state. The OGP knows what they need to do both as public service bodies but also as suppliers.   They are looking carefully at their supply chains, trying to ensure our supply chains and put in place contingency plans. There is huge uncertainty out there and there’s no sign of that waning anytime soon. The best the state can do is to be prepared by reviewing the supply chain in a detailed structured manner and understanding where the potential challenges are and may be in the future.

It was a massively interesting event and the organisers of Procurex are to be commended for organising it.

Marc Bentley is a consultant with Brightwater’s Supply Chain & Logistics division and specialises in placing supply chain & logistics professionals across a range of industries in Ireland and overseas. Contacted Marc on 01 662 1000 or email m.bentley@brightwater.ie.