THE Government is fully committed to maximising access for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to public contracts, while ensuring that the State gets value for money and meets its obligations under EU law. As things stand, 95pc of the public procurement spend is within the State.
I am in favour of including social clauses in public tenders. As chair of the Government’s SME working group, I am, however, aware of concerns that business representatives have expressed about using a ‘blanket’ approach to social clauses.
We debated this recently in the Dáil, where I stated: “Overall, the Government supports the principle of social clauses and sees significant merit in developing an effective approach to their use. Any legislation and guidance must comply with the fundamental principles of EU law, including the free movement of goods and services, equal treatment, non-discrimination and transparency.”
Watch my speech on this Bill here (from 25.30).
The new Office of Government Procurement (OGP), which I oversee, is responsible for bringing about reform and improvements within the state procurement process. This process is under constant review to ensure that it is fair, transparent, in keeping with EU law and delivering for both SMEs and the tax payer.
I answered a question on this in the Dáil last week.
You can watch the exchange here.
To find out more about the OGP and what it does, go here.
Education has always been important to me, ever since I was first elected to the Dáil in 2011, and before that as a city councillor.
In particular, the question of admissions policy has been a particular focus and I have worked on the School Admissions Bill since 2012. Some of you may have attended the public meeting on this issue that I held in Donnybrook in 2013.
Our education system ultimately belongs to the children, parents, teachers and other staff and it is vital that they all have a chance to shape it and have a real say in how it operates.
For that reason, I would encourage all stakeholders to avail of the opportunity to make their views known on the role of religion in school admissions, which is currently being considered by my colleague Richard Bruton.
His Department of Education and Skills has now extended the deadline for written submissions to March 20 – now is the time to make your voice heard.
For more details to submit feedback, go here.
The full consultation paper can be viewed here.
LAST week, I briefed Oireachtas Members on progress in modernising the process by which the State spends over €12bn on goods, services and works. It is a huge sum and a major contributor to our economy.
Our aim is to ensure not only that the State delivers the services on which citizens depend, but that it spends taxpayers’ money wisely. We are also mindful that many businesses depend on public works, so it is essential that contracts are seen to be awarded in a process that is fair and transparent.
The Office of Government Procurement was set up in 2014 to achieve these objectives. I outlined to legislators some of the initiatives taken, such as Framework Agreements and the use of systematic market analysis prior to tendering. As part of the drive towards greater eGovernment, another area of my Finance portfolio, firms have been encouraged to register on eTenders, the Government’s national tendering platform.
Much has been achieved in terms of ensuring value for money and fair dealings with businesses. Looking to build on this, one of our chief priorities will be to look at including social clauses in contracts, aimed at helping the long-term unemployed back into work and training.
You can see the briefing document Oireachtas Members received here.
You can see a separate press briefing about the legal services framework here.
MAKING life simpler for citizens and businesses is one of this Government’s core objectives. To this end, on Tuesday I commended to the Dáil the second stage of a measure which will remove hundreds of outdated and obsolete laws from our statute book.
The Statute Law Revision Bill, which has cross-party support, will repeal 301 laws passed between 1922 and 1950. Examples include emergency legislation allowing for the death penalty during the Civil War and dealing with matters such as the League of Nations and the Eucharistic Congress.
As I told TDs: “This Bill is a rather technical piece of legislation, but an important and necessary one. It will clear away the redundant and obsolete acts clogging up our statute book and it will have benefits, including a modern and streamlined statute book, which is more accessible to citizens and businesses as they go about their business in their daily lives.”
Read my speech to the Dáil here
And, watch it here (22 minutes in).
I spoke in the Seanad about the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and the State investing in tobacco and alcohol companies.
You can watch my contribution here (52 minutes in).
We should direct our money away from these companies and I have asked officials to look at this.
You might recall my Ethical Investment Bill from the last Dáil – go here for more.
The Finance Bill implements Budget 2017. This week I took it through committee stage, you can watch the proceedings here (2016-11-15).
Minister Noonan and I completed the Bill in the Dáil here.
For more information on Budget 2017 go here.
On Tuesday, during Topical Issues, I answered questions about the presence of Revenue Officers at out ports.
We discussed the deployment of officers and resources at our airports, harbours and coasts. I spoke about the intelligence based enforcement approach which uses data analytics, technology and various information flows to clamp down on smuggling and evasion.
You can watch a video of the discussion here.
The Budget for 2017 was announced on Tuesday. You can find all of the details here.
You can watch me introduce and debate the budget in the Seanad here (at 1:36).
Go here take a look at the new website which shows you how your money is spent.
To listen to an Irish Times podcast where we debate the politics of the budget go here.
We also debated aspects of it on Sean O’Rourke’s weekly gathering here (at 1:32).
You can see some of the highlight changes here.
On behalf of the Government I attended the recent Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg with other European Finance Ministers to discuss the situation in Greece, as well as number of other issues.
You can find out more about the meeting here.