Senator Daly: I compliment my colleague, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, on introducing this important Bill. Departments frequently tell us that a tender was awarded for value for money reasons. Value for money is not the only issue at stake in the awarding of public contracts. As previous speakers noted, we often find that contracts for simple items are awarded to foreign companies. It beggars belief that the leaving and junior certificate papers are printed elsewhere.
Other countries have introduced a social impact clause, which is provided for under European Union rules. Ireland, however, is not using the full powers available to ensure the highest benefit for the country from public contracts, including in the area of job retention. In one astonishing case in County Kerry, tenders for the RIBs used by the Coast Guard service were drawn up in such a manner and with such specifications that the contract could only be awarded to a company that was not based in Ireland. Irish companies were precluded from tendering for the contract.
In addition to more transparency, we also need a level playing pitch, as Senator O’Brien noted. We must ensure the lowest price is not the only issue considered when assessing tenders because it does not necessarily deliver the best return to the State or the best value for money to citizens for the tax revenue that is being used for tenders and contracts.
Small and medium-sized enterprises wish to compete fairly but are being frozen out of contracts in other jurisdictions by social clauses which are not used for similar contracts in this country. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Austria all use social clauses to great effect and keep money in their economies. Unfortunately, Ireland is not availing of European legislation which would allow us to act in a similar fashion.
I welcome the Minister of State’s positive response to the Bill and look forward to its enactment before he becomes a senior Minister.