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Brian Hayes TD, Minister for Procurement has announced the launch of the Framework for the Supply of Purchasing Cards to the Irish public sector, to be supplied by Ulster Bank Ireland Limited and Bank of Ireland.

Currently, most public sector bodies spend a significant amount of their time processing low value invoices and in turn utilising a considerable amount of staff resources. Thus, the purpose of these cards is to reduce the processing costs of these invoices. This Framework Agreement will target up to €200m of State expenditure which currently involves the processing of some half a million invoices with an average value of €350.

Purchasing cards work on the same principle as credit cards and can be accepted by all credit card enabled suppliers (merchants) in the State. Purchasing cards can be locked down to certain merchant category groups and a card manager in each public sector body decides on which staff members shall have access to a purchasing card and which merchant category groups they shall be able to purchase from. The purchasing cards offer additional security controls such as weekly spend limits for users and cost limitations on individual purchases.

A purchasing card programme will eliminate a lot of the processes for low value transactions while at the same time improving security and accountability. The card programmes are supported by sophisticated back-office software solutions that can provide very detailed management information reports.

An extensive programme will be initiated by the National Procurement Service to promote the wide scale use of these cards across the Irish Public Service.

The Framework is available to the entire non-commercial public sector including: central government departments and offices; non-commercial state agencies; local authorities; the health sector; the education sector; An Garda Síochána; the Defence Forces, the Irish Prison Service and the National Lottery Company.

The Framework Agreement will be in place for two years, with an option to extend it for a further two years to a maximum of four years.

Minister Hayes said this new framework will provide a boost for the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector as receipt of payments by suppliers will be accelerated to less than four days.

He added: “I look forward to working with both Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland in what I expect will be a mutually beneficial relationship. The Purchasing Card Framework Agreement ticks many of the boxes as far as Government Policy is concerned. For example, the SME sector will be assisted through the improvement of their cash flow and it will also help address many efficiency and cost reduction objectives of the Public Sector Reform Agenda”.