Protecting Human Rights in Public Contracts

The introduction of NI Executive Public Procurement Notes on Human Rights and Scoring Social Value have placed renewed emphasis on protecting human rights in public contracts, including throughout supply chains.

However, the protection of human rights has always been at the core of policing. The introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 in October 2000 served to formalise this in a way that had not before existed.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has developed programmes to ensure that all its officers and staff understand the principles of human rights and the obligations placed upon them. This is reflected in the policies, planning and practice of the Service.

The PSNI regularly review external changes in the legal interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the internal needs of those whose task it is to uphold the law.

The Northern Ireland Policing Board is responsible for monitoring the performance of the Police Service in complying with the Human Rights Act 1998. The Board’s Human Rights Advisors have developed a monitoring framework for human rights, which allows the Board to measure the Police Service’s performance against human rights standards.

This protection of human rights extends to PSNI Contractor’s delivering outsourced services to PSNI.

Central Procurement Directorate, Supplies and Services Division, has worked with the PSNI to develop a procurement strategy and contract model to embed the protection of human rights in the delivery of services to PSNI.

The procurement strategy and contract model incorporated a number of key objectives including:

  • To achieve best value for money
  • To put in place operational support services that delivers against the strategic outcomes of the NI Policing Plan and PSNI People Strategy aims
  • To ensure maximum performance through robust key performance indicators and contract management procedures.

Context of Manned Guarding Market

The manned security market has been greatly affected by price competition over recent years. Manned guarding revenues have been depressed by the continued emphasis on cost reduction, the ability of larger facilities management companies to undercut prices in competitive bids, and the perception that manned guarding is low skilled to drive down prices. Minimum wage increases and the introduction of the Living Wage in 2016 has increased staff costs, further affecting price competitiveness in the highly manpower dependent guarding sector.

Given the competitive nature of the market, it is important that Government contracts protect worker’s human rights to avoid poor practices such as employees being asked to pay for their own uniform, Personal Protection Equipment or Security Industry Association Licenses which can lead to recruitment, retention and attrition issues.

Procurement Strategy and Contract

In developing the procurement strategy and contract, and taking cognizance of the context of the manned guarding market, PSNI and CPD recognised the need to consider human rights to compliment the objective to achieve value for money.

Following consultation with the Human Rights Commission for Northern Ireland, PSNI and CPD incorporated the protection of human rights within the contract specification, conditions of contract and monitoring of key performance indicators.

This included the requirement for:

  • Contractor compliance with the National Minimum Living Wage
  • The Contractor provision of uniform, PPE equipment and appropriate training
  • HR and disciplinary procedures for their personnel
  • The Contractor to develop and maintain a human rights policy which must be approved at board level
  • Within 30 days of Award, the Contractor must provide a copy of their human rights policy and the processes they have in place which demonstrates that their activities show a consideration to human rights
  • Throughout the Contract term, the Contractor must have a nominated named person with responsibility for human rights issues and they will be required to complete an annual human rights statement
  • The PSNI reserves the right to survey the Contractor’s Staff on workforce matters such as organisational culture; access to terms and conditions for placements; staff policies such as grievance procedures; how payment for services is managed etc.

It was further given consideration under the evaluation criteria of workforce management and specifically the sub criteria staff welfare and disciplinary procedures.

Once the contract is awarded, human rights considerations are a standing agenda item for the bi-annual strategic contract reviews with the Contractor and PSNI has reserved the right to audit at anytime throughout the contract period.