The Irish Government has published a new Code of Practice on governance which applies to commercial and non-commercial State and regulatory bodies.

The Code came into effect on 1 September 2016 and, among other corporate governance rules, it contains important guidance on public procurement practice.

The Boards and senior management of State bodies should take steps now to ensure their procurement procedures and practices are compliant with the Code. Exemptions from provisions of the Code may be justified in certain situations, however, these will need to be explained and derogations sought from the relevant Minister or parent Department.

The key take-aways in relation to procurement are summarised below:

  • It is the responsibility of the Board to satisfy itself that the Public Procurement rules are adhered to by the State body and to be fully conversant with the value thresholds that apply.
  • The Board should satisfy itself that procurement policies and procedures have been developed and disseminated to all
    staff. It should also ensure that procedures are in place to detect non-compliance with procurement procedures.
  • The Board should ensure that competitive tendering is adopted as standard. Management, and ultimately the Board, should ensure that there is an appropriate focus on good practice in purchasing and that procedures are in place to ensure compliance with procurement policy and guidelines.
  • Non-competitive procurement should be reported in the comprehensive report which the Board Chairperson is required by the Code to furnish to the relevant Minister.
  • State bodies should keep a contracts database for all contracts and/or payments with a value in excess of €25,000.

The Code also draws attention to the legislative framework (including EU Directives and national regulations) which underpins the public procurement regime, particularly the requirement to use objective tendering procedures for awarding contracts with a value above certain thresholds. It highlights that even in the case of contracts not fully regulated by the EU Directives and national legislation, EU Treaty principles (eg non–discrimination, equal treatment, transparency and proportionality) may still need to be observed.

The Office of Government Procurement’s policy framework, which requires all non-commercial State bodies to complete a Corporate Procurement Plan analysing procurement expenditure and internal procurement and purchasing structures, is also referenced in the Code. The development and implementation of the Corporate Procurement Plan is required to be reported on in the Chairperson’s report to the relevant Minister.

The Code is available on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.