Fiona Hodgson’s update on Procurement in NI

November 22, 2021

SNIPEF's CEO latest update for Members in Northern Ireland

We reached out to our Members in October 2021 seeking your views on how public sector procurement could be improved. You provided us with examples of bad practice and solutions to mitigate these failings.

The rationale behind this activity was due to a request by a Member operating in Northern Ireland and their experience. This actual experience included the SNIPEF Member, although named as the mechanical services contractor in a main contract tender, (including being the main contract documentation) later discovered that the main contractor had appointed another subcontractor. This appointment was made due to our Member’s refusal to considerably reduce their quotation (submitted as part of the main contractor’s tender).

It appears that this practice is not unusual in Northern Ireland, however the newly formed Procurement Board, resulting in SNIPEF undertaking the issue as a matter and example of industry bad practice.

The week commencing 08 November saw me being contacted by Ian McClelland of Member firm LM Services (NI) Ltd, who represents SME’s on the Procurement Board, informing me that Sharron Smyth, the recently appointed Chief Executive of Construction and Procurement Delivery (CPD) did examine the information we submitted from Members and listened to the concerns Ian put forward.

The outcome is that CPD are now seriously looking at the implementation of a Policy to replace the existing guidance with improved guidance in a bid to lessen his activity.

Should this revised guidance come into effect, then this would be a major step forward.  Despite guidance being deemed as advisory, policy is signed off by Ministers at Executive level and therefore becomes statutory legislation, and this means it must be adhered to.

In addition, this week also saw contractors registered on Northern Ireland’s Dynamic Shortlisting System receive an email identifying a new section which has been added to the Terms and Conditions regarding sub-contractor selection. Section 10 entitled Sub-Contractor Selection has been added to highlight the absolute requirement to name Sub-Contractors at tender submission stage and contains the following clauses:

  • All DSS procurements requiring the use of Sub-Contractors holding required DSS facility and works categories will contain a section in the tender documentation where the Sub-Contractor for each required category i.e. Mechanical, Electrical, Building will be named.
  • Any tender received where a Sub-Contractor has not been named against a required category will be rejected and be excluded from consideration.
  • Upon submission of the tender the Contractor is confirming that the named Sub-Contractor against each required category is the Sub-Contractor whose price has been used for the tender and who will be carrying out the required sub-contracting works.
  • These named Sub-Contractors cannot be changed post tender unless the named Sub-Contractor goes into liquidation or withdraws in writing, stating why they are no longer willing to be the Sub-Contractor.
  • In the event that a Contractor changes their named Sub-Contractor for any other reason than those outlined in 10.4 above this will be deemed by CPD to be poor performance and the sanctions outlined in Section 7. Poor Performance Sanctions will be applied with immediate effect.

On an encouraging note, even though progress needs to go further, I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction and that change can happen with positive results.

I would like to put on record my thanks to Ian for his work on the Procurement Board representing SME’s, and of course to our valued Members, who came forward to provide evidence and of course Rudi for his legal stewardship.

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