Is it responsible to start procurement processes without having the money? I suppose the answer depends on what you mean by procurement.
I ask the question as Danny Kenndy, the Minister for Regional Development in Northern Ireland, is reported to have stated the procurement and planning process for several [road] schemes was "well advanced", but "then we need the money".
In the procurement cycle which starts with defining the need, I would be happy that the business case stage ensures the money is available, and if that is what is meant by the procurement process, then so be it. It could also be that the Minister is referring to soft market testing and establishing the budget robustness - that would be okay too provided al the relevant stakeholders are clear on what is happening. However, if, as I suspect in this case, 'the procurement process' is really the tendering process, then, while I think there is a need to have the necessary planning approval, I do not think it is responsible to start a procurement process before confirmation the required finance is available.
We've heard so much about making it easier for SMEs to do business with the public sector and reducing the costs of doing so, but surely starting a tendering process without the required funding is placing an unnecessary risk and burden on the bidding community - that's not responsible. The only circumstances in which I think it is justifiable to place that cost on bidders would be if the buying organisation agreed to cover the cost of bidding should the procurement process not be progressed through to award. Would the NI Assembly be prepared to accept that cost?