Announcement fulfills key Programme for Government commitment to promote SME participation in public procurement market worth €8.5 billion each year

Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment, Patrick O’Donovan T.D., today (Thursday 12 July) formally re-launched the Tender Advisory Service (TAS). The Tender Advisory Service is an informal review mechanism that can be used by suppliers free of charge to raise concerns during a live procurement process.

TAS was developed in consultation with representatives of the SME sector to address issues that impact on SMEs participating in the public procurement process. It forms part of a number of initiatives designed to ensure that Irish SMEs have full access to public procurement opportunities.

TAS operated on a pilot basis since 2015 and was subject to a review process which showed that it was a positive development and should be continued. This formal launch is the next step in raising the profile of TAS to ensure that SMEs are fully aware of the service and what it has to offer. TAS is managed by the Policy Unit within the Office of Government Procurement with assistance from a panel of external procurement experts.

Speaking at the launch, which was attended by members of the SME Advisory Group, Minister O’Donovan said: “I hear the concerns of the SME sector first hand. I chair the SME Advisory Group which meets regularly and was set up to ensure that the voice of Irish SMEs is heard by Government and the Office of Government Procurement. I’m pleased to re-launch the Tender Advisory Service today, following consultation with this group. The review of this service was a key initiative in the Programme for Government to support SME access to public procurement opportunities.”

The members of the SME Advisory group are: the Office of Government Procurement, ISME, Ibec, the Construction Industry Federation, Chambers Ireland, and the Small Firms Association as well as public sector groups such as Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland, the Dept. of Business Employment and Innovation and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

The Tender Advisory Service (TAS) is an informal outlet, available to any participant in a procurement process, allowing them to seek clarifications or raise concerns with an impartial broker. The service is available at a particular point in the open tendering process, which is after the clarification process has been utilised and not less than six days before the closing date for receipt of tenders. Using the service does not affect a supplier’s rights under the remedies legislation.

TAS was established as a pilot programme in 2015. TAS was subject to both an internal review within the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) and an external review conducted by Research Matters. The external review, provided for in the Programme for Government, concluded that the service’s approach had been a positive development and recommended retaining this service and further raising its profile.

The SME Advisory Group provides Minister O’Donovan with ongoing assistance and advice on SME issues and meets quarterly to provide Irish small and medium enterprises with direct access to Government. The group examines issues impacting on SMEs and communicates these and possible solutions to the relevant Agency, Department or to Government.

The members of the SME Advisory group are: the OGP, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Ibec, ISME, SFA, Chambers Ireland, and the Construction Industry Federation.

The Office of Government Procurement commenced operations in 2014 and, together with four key sectors (Health, Local Government, Education and Defence), has responsibility for sourcing goods and services on behalf of the public service. The OGP also has responsibility for procurement policy and procedures, sourcing systems and data analytics.

Further information on TAS is available from: ogp.gov.ie/tender-advisory-service/

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