Change to tendering process should benefit small businesses

Members of Cavan-Monaghan Education and Training Board have welcomed a change to the tendering threshold, which many believe will make it easier for local businesses to secure contracts going forward.

The May monthly meeting, held at Blacklion’s Loughan House, heard that changes are being implemented to allow small-to-medium (SME) enterprises “get involved” in tendering for contacts to deliver goods and services.

Most recently Broomfield Construction was awarded the tender for construction works on Gaelscoil Eois in Clones.

Up until now contracts for goods and services with an estimated value of less than €5,000 (exclusive of VAT) required a quote from one or more competitive suppliers, with the best practice being to seek a minimum of three quotes, in writing or email. For contracts worth between €5,000 - €15,000 three quotes must be sought; while at least five quotes are required for tenders for works valued under €50,000.

The change coming into effect now means only one quote will be “sufficient” for contracts for goods and services with an estimated value of less than €5,000. This can be on the on the basis of verbal or written agreement.

For contracts valued between €5,000 and €50,000, buyers have multiple options with three quotes required in writing, via email or via the eTenders website.

Contracts valued over €50,000 excluding VAT must be advertised on eTenders. Five quotes will be needed for works over €200,000, and above that, the tender will be available for open competition across Ireland and the EU.

The changes follow a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform circular issued in May, which outlined initiatives to assist SMEs in Public Procurement, and provided guidance on enabling SMEs compete for public contracts.

Fianna Fail’s Clifford Kelly welcomed the news.

He said that for too long local businesses had been “locked out of the system” by restrictions on who could apply. The same businesses, he stated, were the ones that local schools would receive sponsorship from. “Local businesses have always been there to help.”

Fine Gael’s Aidan Campbell said that local schools and businesses in towns across the region had a good relationship. While he too welcomed the change, he believed that more could be done to lower the thresholds further.

Independent Brendan Fay agreed and said it was a “move in the right direction”.

Chair Carmel Brady said the subject had been a pertinent one when broached at a meeting of ETBs across Ireland at Dublin’s Buswell’s Hotel earlier this year, which members of the Oireachtas then attended.

Cllr Brady; chief executive, Dr Fiona McGrath and Bernie Power, buildings officer, attended from CMETB. Cllr Brady said that TDs took on board the comments made, noting that “it might not be noticeable in the cities, but [tenders] mean a lot in rural areas”.

The new tendering thresholds will come into effect in July 2023.