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State flouts EU rules by not revealing winners of public contracts

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THE winner of four out of five state contracts is never revealed, new research shows.

An estimated 7,500 tenders worth €12bn were offered by government departments, agencies and utility companies in 2013 on the eTenders procurement website.

Despite government cuts to health spending, the Health Service Executive (HSE) awarded more than any other body, according to the annual report from TenderScout.

But only 10pc of SMEs actually participate in the tender process.

Tony Corrigan, chief executive of TenderScout – which helps SMEs win tenders – revealed that 82pc of the time the results are kept secret, with no public record of the successful companies or the value of the contracts won.

"This type of information is really important to help SMEs gain a better understanding of the process and encourages them to compete for future tenders," Mr Corrigan said.

"If companies are looking to compete for a contract in the future, like supplying surgical gloves, they don't know what happened in the past – like who won it, how much it was, and when it is likely to be re-tendered again.

"SMEs need to know that information to compete."

He warned agencies are flouting an EU Remedies Directive which states all contracts must be published.

The HSE offered almost 200 tenders last year, followed by the Office of Public Works (OPW), Cork County Council, Dublin City Council and Bord Gais Eireann which had more than 100 tenders.

While there are 10,500 categories listed – from shellfish to oil rigs – a quarter of all tenders fell into just five categories: construction; ICT/technology; training and education; consultancy; and recreational, cultural or sporting services.

CONSTRUCTION

The most lucrative tender was for airfield pavement construction services by Dublin Airport Authority estimated to be worth €30m.

This contact is not yet awarded to any company.

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Geographically, Dublin is the big winner accounting for 62pc of all tenders followed by the counties of Cork (8pc), Galway (5pc), and Limerick and Kildare (4pc each). Foreign companies won 28pc of contracts here, while just 2pc of Irish companies one tenders in Europe.

TenderScout found that out of the 18pc of contracts published, Eircom won the most in 2013 with 10, followed by UPS Communications, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the RPS group – which has won well over 100 tenders since 2003.

Mr Corrigan said SMEs should really look to tendering, particularly in the construction sector.

"It is clear to see from the data, that despite fall off in the sector in recent years, the construction industry in Ireland still has a lot of opportunities when it comes to the public sector," he added.

"The value of the Irish public sector procurement market in 2013 was €12bn which is the single biggest market opportunity for SMES. With only one in 10 SME's participation in tendering, there is an incredible opportunity for them.

"The research clearly shows that SMEs want to tender with 46pc saying they are interested but they feel they have no chance of winning."


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