How can construction SME’s participate more effectively in public sector works

21 Aug 2018

Martin Lang, Director, Main Contracting, outlines how SMEs can increase their knowledge of and as a result their participation in Public Sector Works.

 CIF members have faced significant barriers of participation in getting work in the public sector over the past two year. 

The Government’s policy documents and statements all emphasis how important SME participation is to them.   Everyone agrees that SME participation is crucial to the economy, to regionally-based contractors and to local economies. In reality, the execution of procurement policy at local level often falls well below these aspirational statements.

Guidance documents are generally very supportive of such participation.  Policy appears to be equally supportive.  Department circulars encourage it as do European directives.  Certainly, the industry wants more SMEs involved.

So, what can be done to improve SME participation?

Let’s look at the basics: in the very competitive market, companies must be Olympic Gold standard when it comes to Prequalifying for Public Sector work.  This standard must be matched by those reviewing PQ submissions.  It is at this stage that the potential tenderer’s fate is decided upon; whether it be for contacts to build or contracts to provide design services.

Many construction SMEs are still in the recovery stage and are rebuilding balance sheets, developing experience and getting set again to deliver.  As a result, joint ventures have become a common feature on the PQ and Tendering landscape nowadays.  However, in order for these arrangements to succeed, it’s essential that JV partners and those in charge of procuring have a deep knowledge of how such arrangements operate.  It is policy to encourage such arrangements rather than to set out to find ways to undermine them.

There is a worrying trend towards ‘Frameworks’ for all kinds of procurement. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with frameworks.  It is vital that they are operated by procurers with the training and experience in how these arrangements are properly executed.  They must only be exercised in strict accordance with policy, guidance notes and EU procurement law.  The level of exotic breeds of frameworks that are not fit for purpose is increasing and these generally militate against the SME and run counter to the delivery of solid construction and value for money for the taxpayer.

There is not a lot wrong with procurement policy and guidance on, prequals, suitability assessment’s, frameworks, joint ventures etc. What’s required now is to upskill contracting agencies and their staff with the requisite skills to deliver sustainable and enlightened procurement policy.

We know that we have vast sums of public money being invested in the industry and that this impacts on every contractor, large or small from Dingle to Donegal. Those charged with such responsibility must be trained procurers and be fully conversant all EU and National procurement law.  In addition, they should have a deep understanding of DPER procurement rules, policies and regulation in addition to up to date procurement law.

Join us for our upcoming breakfast information session from 9.00am to 11.00am on September 13th on Suitability Assessments, Pre Quals and how they are should operate.  Topics will also include frameworks, their set up and effective operation and how best to deal with Joint Ventures.


Speakers will include:

Siobhan Kenny, Frank Murphy Solicitors

Alison Irving, Executive CIF

Martin Lang, Director, Main Contracting, CIF


All are welcome to attend, Contractors, Specialist Subcontractors, Architects, Surveyors, Engineers, those involved in the procurement process from Government Departments, Local Authorities, Semi States.


Thursday September 13th    9.00am to 11.00am

Spaces are very limited and demand is expected to be high.

The briefing will cost €30.00 including T&C and documents.

To make a booking contact: Caroline Treacy at [email protected]  01 4066029

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