Electronic procurement is one of the flagship projects within the Government’s action plan for an information society, New Connections.
Back in April, the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy TD, published a major strategic report on electronic procurement, A Strategy for the Implementation of eProcurement in the Irish Public Sector, and the Government agreed that immediate action should be taken to start implementing its recommendations.
Announcing the decision the Minister said that ”the strategy set out in the report aims to provide a much improved service to users, buyers and suppliers through new procurement policies, practices and standardisation of processes and documentation. It will contribute to the Government’s commitment to e-Europe, improve auditability of procurement expenditure, provide greater transparency and openness and promote greater use of fully automated integrated management information systems. New structures will be put in place at national and sectoral level to oversee the implementation of the recommendations in the strategy as it is rolled out over the next six years.”
The Minister also pointed out that “the public service as a purchaser spends approximately €8.8bn annually and it is essential that it gets the best value for taxpayers through the use of the most modern procurement methods available.”
It is estimated that full implementation of the measures recommended in the report over the five-year time frame envisaged would generate cumulative potential savings of over €400m by 2007 with potential annual savings of about €175m a year thereafter.
The central pillar of the Government’s e-procurement strategy is the public sector procurement portal, www.e-tenders.gov.ie. Since its launch in March 2001 the portal has come to be seen as an excellent example of e-government in action. It has had a tremendous effect on the number of responses to public tenders – up to four times the number when compared with tenders advertised offline. According to David Ring, chair of the e-tenders development committee, the site publishes an average of 15 new tenders daily and currently has 7,000 suppliers and over 150 registered users.
As part of the e-procurement strategy, two other technology projects are due to be implemented. One is a national electronic tender management facility to support the secure transmission of tender documents between buyers and suppliers. This facility would eventually support the entire tendering process from tender document preparation through tender award to contract management. The other is a catalogue-based ordering system to provide public service buyers with internet-based facilities to search and order from online catalogues of goods and services under contract arrangements agreed with suppliers.