Business representative groups have welcomed the introduction of new public procurement guidelines which are designed to make it easier for small businesses to bid for public sector contracts.

The guidelines were officially launched by the Minister of State for Finance, Brian Hayes.

They attempt to establish the relevant level of financial capacity and insurance that tendering firms should have in place when considering tendering for projects.

The guidelines also encourage SMEs to group with other businesses to make a tender if their own firms are not of sufficient size to tender on their own.

"Our goal is to ensure that it gets easier for businesses to engage with public procurement while at the same time driving improved value for money for the taxpayer," Minister Hayes said. 

"The new Office of Government Procurement is commencing its operations this year and is key to bringing a more professional and whole of government approach to procurement."

The employer's group Ibec welcomed the initiative as a step towards reducing unnecessary barriers that limit the ability of small companies to compete effectively in the process.

Business representative group ISME said international research had shown that developing a strong SME base increases competition in public procurement which, in turn, offers government better value for money.

Mark Fielding, CEO of ISME, said the absence of a Public Procurement Ombudsman to hear complaints from suppliers was a glaring omission.

Public sector contracts worth €9 billion will be available in Ireland this year.

However, recent figures show that only 10% of companies here pitched for any of the 7,500 contracts available last year.