On 18 January 2018 last, Patrick O'Donovan TD, Minister of State with Responsibility for Public Procurement officially signed Ireland up as an Authority Member of OpenPEPPOL, the international association with responsibility for maintaining PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement Online), a network operating in the sphere of e-procurement and e-invoicing.
This follows on from the launch late last year of the government's plans to increase the use of digital technology, such as business information modelling ("BIM"), in key public works contracts. As part of these plans, public bodies will establish requirements for the use of BIM in the construction and operation of public infrastructure over the next four years. Both of these initiatives compliment the government's 'eGovernment Strategy 2017-2020', published in July 2017, which sets out ten key actions for Ireland to become a leader in digital government services, including facilitating secure online identification, improving underlying infrastructure and providing appropriate skilling.
It is clear that the current government is seeking to emphasise and increase the use and importance of technology not only in the carrying out of public sector works but in engaging and managing the State's relationships with contractors across all fields of procurement. Why is this, and why now? Specifically, what is the significance of PEPPOL membership, how do Irish businesses, and the State, benefit from it and what steps should you take if you are a supplier of goods or services to the public sector?
Ireland's decision to become a member of PEPPOL stems directly from Directive 2014/55/EU (the "eInvoicing Directive"). The eInvoicing Directive obliges all public sector bodies to be able to receive e-invoices by April 2019. In order to ensure compliance with the eInvoicing Directive, the government has set up eInvoicing Ireland, operating out of the Office of Government Procurement which will work to co-ordinate Ireland's approach to implementing e-invoicing and make all stakeholders aware of impending obligations. Joining PEPPOL is part of the OPG's plan to ensure compliance with the eInvoicing Directive but also demonstrates the State's commitment to using innovative technological solutions in the public sector.
PEPPOL itself is not an e-procurement platform. Rather, it is an e-delivery network, a set of harmonised technical specifications to be used in existing e-procurement platforms (or business...