Small businesses in test case to prove tendering system unfair

Businesses’ concerns include a condition requiring tenderers to have a minimum annual turnover of €2 million

The action, regarded as a test case, is by 10 small or “micro” businesses.  Photograph: Reuters

The action, regarded as a test case, is by 10 small or “micro” businesses. Photograph: Reuters

 

A challenge by several small businesses to proposed changes to the conditions of public works contract applications has opened before the High Court. The businesses’ concerns include a condition requiring tenderers to have a minimum annual turnover of €2 million.

The action, regarded as a test case, is by 10 small or “micro” businesses who have for years supplied State bodies, including schools, local authorities, the HSE and the Garda with printers and associated devices such as ink cartridges.

Their case is against the Commissioners of Public Works, who operate the National Procurement Service.

The action arises from criteria included in a March 2013 Framework Agreement for the supply of printers and associated devices to State entities via contracts worth an estimated €25 million over two years.

Criteria

Under the new criteria, tenderers must display certain “economic and financial standing” or a minimum annual turnover of €2 million. They are also required to fulfil certain technical and professional abilities.

The companies say, because they are small businesses, many will be unable to meet these requirement although they have been supplying products to the State for some time.

They contend the new regulations are disproportionate, discriminatory and prevent and distort competition in the Irish market.

EU directive

The case before Mr Justice Paul McDermott is expected to last for several weeks.