Margaret Hearty from InterTradeIreland has urged SMEs in Northern Ireland to prepare for changes to the way in which public sector services are tendered, particularly in Ireland, in terms of new category structures and centralised Government purchasing through the Office of Government Procurement (OGP).
The OGP was established in January 2014 with a key objective to optimise value for money through smarter tendering techniques. It will centralise all procurement expertise with individual bodies ceasing to publish their own invitations and expenditure in key areas, including professional services, ICT and HR, set to be consolidated.
In Northern Ireland, the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) is the lead body responsible for reviewing and developing NI procurement policy and providing the NI Public Sector with best value for money procurement services. Very much like the Irish Procurement market changes, CPD will adopt a ‘common goods and services’ approach, increasingly moving towards greater collaboration.
Some 98% of procurement spend in the province is now subject to the professional influence of Centres of Procurement Expertise (CoPEs). Six CoPEs service specific sectors- BSO PaLS (health supplies); Education & Library Boards (education); NI Housing Executive (housing); NI Water (water); Roads Service (roads); and Translink (transport). All other procurements are handled through two CPD CoPEs one for supplies and services and one for construction works and services.
According to InterTradeIreland’s director of programmes and business services, Margaret Hearty: “The public procurement market in Northern Ireland is worth approximately £2.7 billion and in Ireland is worth around €8.5 billion. Small businesses have been well positioned to date to win the majority of published tenders and have benefitted strongly from a competitive public procurement market.
However reforms afoot will present new challenges and we are urging SMEs to adapt; for instance, with larger value contracts being advertised. Even though new category structures are accessible to all scales of suppliers, different approaches may be required to stay in the market, such as forming consortia.”
InterTradeIreland’s key advice to SMEs adapting to the new Public Procurement Market is to:
Register on tender websites
Many SMEs in Northern Ireland are still not registered on eSourcing NI https://e-sourcingni.bravosolution.co.uk/web/login.shtml which is a free service providing a virtual storefront to public sector buyers. More importantly InterTradeIreland is asking SME’s to ensure that the information you enter is relevant and kept up to date, so that buyers will find your company when they search your products and services online.
InterTradeIreland also encourages suppliers to register on the enhanced eTenders website to research and bid on opportunities in Ireland. www.etenders.gov.ie
Form Consortia to bid for larger contracts
With the increased aggregation in demand across public sector procurement, contracts will become larger in size. Consider partnering with other companies to bid for these larger tenders. Choose potential partners wisely; even consider partnering with a competitor to tender together or alternatively mergers should be considered.
Do your research on the Procurement Market
Unlike before, increasingly procurement in Northern Ireland and Ireland will now be categorised into types of procurement spend. In the South specifically (for example professional services, facilities management, marketing, print and stationery), each of which will be managed by a Portfolio Manager, supported by a Category Council. Understanding how the new market works and who the public buyers are in your category is essential.
To support local businesses, InterTradeIreland has launched an enhanced range of tender supports to give SMEs the knowledge and practical skills to tender successfully for public sector contracts in this changing environment and will host a number of Go-2-Tender workshops to facilitate SMEs looking to adapt to the forthcoming changes.
InterTradeIreland is also actively advising SMEs to consider forming bid consortia, to ensure they are well positioned to continue to bid for and win public sector business to the same extent they are doing to date. InterTradeIreland will be holding three free Consortia Seminars over the coming months to support SMEs in this particular area with one taking place on 30th September at the Radisson Blu in Belfast.
Concluding Margaret Hearty said: “As the streamlining of the public sector tendering process moves forward in a bid to achieve greater value for money in the delivery of public services and there will be new opportunities for SMEs with the realignment of public procurement guidelines as recently outlined by both CPD and OGP. As a consequence of these changes, the number of individual tenders is expected to drop, while the value of tenders will almost certainly rise over time.
“InterTradeIreland urges SMEs to prepare for these changes and adapt their approach to public sector tenders if they are not to lose out. I would encourage SMEs to visit our website to avail of the vital InterTradeIreland tendering supports available.”
Further information on InterTradeIreland’s public sector tendering supports can be found at www.intertradeireland.com/public-procurement/.
InterTradeIreland suite of tendering supports includes:
Meet the Buyer Events: Access key public sector buyers on the island under one roof.
Go-2-Tender Workshops: 2 day workshops providing SMEs, whether new to tendering or wanting to enhance their knowledge, with tender skills and insights.
Consortia Facilitator Service: Providing advice and facilitation to companies looking to form joint bids.
Tender Apps & Alerts: Automatic updates on the latest tenders direct to your mobile phone through Apple or Android Tender Apps.
Information & Guides: All the information you need to help you tender more successfully.
The value of contract awarded in the 2012-2013 year by CoPEs in NI was £1.4 bn. This culminated in the award of 2,889 contracts of which 79.8% of the total number went to SMEs and 67.6% went to SMEs based in Northern Ireland. Around 18,900 tenders were received by CoPEs in NI of which 81% were from SMEs.