Support pledged for construction industry

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has detailed further measures that he has agreed with the Procurement Board to ensure maximum support for Northern Ireland’s construction industry.

Given the financial importance of procurement policy, both in terms of total spend and in relation to the Executive’s budget, the Procurement Board has responsibility for the development, dissemination and co-ordination of public procurement policy and practice for the Northern Ireland public sector. The Board is responsible to the Executive and accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Sammy Wilson said: “The Executive and the Procurement Board are totally committed in providing the necessary support to the construction industry to ensure that maximum benefit can be obtained for the high levels of capital spend already approved by the Executive.

“Over the four years of the Executive’s budget we will have a capital spend on public sector contracts of £5billion. Currently government accounts for over 64% of all expenditure on construction projects with latest figures showing 96% of construction contracts going to local firms.

“The Executive acknowledge that times are extremely tough for the construction sector. We recognise the importance of paying public sector contracts on time with central government departments paying 97% of invoices within 30 days and 89% within 10 days.”

Following the Procurement Board meeting today the Minister said: “I have agreed with the Procurement Board a range of measures which will assist the construction industry, including sub contractors, to address important issues that they and their representatives have raised with me and other Ministerial colleagues and which should provide the necessary assurances that government recognises the difficulties being faced in this very difficult financial climate.”

The measures include:

· Ensuring that contractors are paid within 10 days.

· Ensuring that all contractors are signed up to the Construction Industry Forum Northern Ireland (CIFNI) Fair Payment Charter.

· Ensuring that Project Managers check that sub contractors and suppliers are being paid promptly.

· Ensuring that government contracts are not awarded to contractors who either:

- are in administration resulting in dropping debts;

- habitually fail to pay their sub contractors and suppliers promptly; or

- submit abnormally low tenders or sub-economic tenders.

Concluding the Minister said: “The construction sector is invaluable to the Northern Ireland economy and I will continue to explore ways in which government can assist but the Executive cannot do this alone and I would appeal to the industry to play its part in helping to stamp out unfair practice.

“I will be writing to my Ministerial colleagues asking for their full support for these measures to be endorsed as a matter of priority.”