Buying Irish to be stressed


IT least three State organisations are buying uniforms Abroad, and Telecom Eireann hired consultants from abroad, according to Fianna Fail TD Mr Seamus Brennan. He was speaking at a meeting of the Joint Committee of Small Business and Service yesterday.

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Mr Hugh Coveney, told the committee that the Cabinet would shortly discuss a programme of action to increase the volume of Irish goods and services bought by the public service.

The strategy, to cover a three to five year period, would involve greater use of new technology to increase awareness of the needs of the public service and training of public service personnel in procurement, he said.

Mr Coveney was replying to points made last June to the committee by Mr Sean Hannick a member of the Task Force on Small Business.

He had said then that the purchases of the Irish public sector were worth over £5 billion a year, of which only 43 per cent - was sourced in Ireland, compared with between 80 and 97 per cent in other EU countries. If public procurement was used to ad vantage, 6,670 jobs would be created for every 5 per cent of the market gained, he said.

He claimed at that meeting that EU regulations about public purchasing were too narrowly interpreted by the Irish public service. Without breaking EU regulations the proportion could be increased considerably, though not to the degree extant in other EU countries, due to Ireland's narrow industrial base.

Mr Coveney said yesterday that he broadly agreed with many of Mr Hannick's points. In particular, there was a need for professional training for people involved in the public service in purchasing, as there was in the private sector.

There was also a lack of information about the scale of the problem, "There is no reliable breakdown of total spending by spending agency, by product group or by any other useful categorisation." This will have to be addressed, he said.