Northern Ireland's Finance Minister has defended the region’s procurement system, outlining the crucial role it plays in Northern Ireland's economy and calling for greater use of procurement as a means to stimulate innovation. Minister Simon Hamilton was reacting to criticism that the region’s current system is rigid and inflexible, and contains unfair barriers to Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) engagement.
The minister rebuked critics who say that the current set-up is “lacking in innovation”, referencing higher governmental funding for innovative procurement: “Northern Ireland is open for business and government has recognised that the buying power of the public sector has a major role to play in stimulating companies to develop new innovative solutions. The Executive has now put in place funding for a team of innovative procurement initiatives including one within my own Department.”
Mr. Hamilton also addressed concerns over SMEs: "Contrary to perceptions, local businesses already win the majority of public procurement contracts in Northern Ireland with some 80 percent of all contracts awarded in 2011/2012 going to SMEs. This compares to 82 percent in Scotland and 60 percent in Wales.” He continued: “Procurement has changed for local SMEs including streamlining procedures and reducing paperwork associated with low value procurements both of which are important to small businesses, [and] reducing liability and insurance requirements by making them proportionate to the risks associated with the contract.”
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