Legal challenges and public procurement in construction in Northern Ireland

Michael Mitchell, Andrew Agapiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Public procurement in the construction sector has been an historic problem in Northern Ireland (NI), to the extent that a public inquiry was held on the matter, including investigating why legal challenge are prevalent, and its findings reported in 2010; a 2019 NI Audit Office report into several major construction projects in NI highlighted legal challenges contributing to project delay, suggesting that perhaps there have not been improvements in relation to legal challenges since the public inquiry. This paper aims to ascertain the frequency of public procurement legal challenges in the construction sector in NI, not just the frequency of court cases, but any challenge to public procurement that delays projects. A multi-phase, mixed methods approach was adopted including a literature review, interviews and questionnaire surveys of procuring and contracting organisations to provide details of all forms of legal challenges, to understand why they challenge procurement decisions and to ascertain views on how public procurement is managed in Northern Ireland. The data reveal that approximately 40 out of 1488 procurement exercises in the last 7 years have had some form of legal challenge. The results also indicate that legal challenges are not as prevalent as the contracting side of the construction industry in NI believes them to be and suggest that the legacy from the public inquiry era around 2008–2012 continues to cloud perceptions of public procurement in NI. The analysis also reveals that the challenging political environment, issues with quality assessment and abnormally low tenders have been the main contributory factors to the rise in legal challenges to public procurement in construction in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Article number773
Number of pages32
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023


  • public procurement
  • legal challenges
  • Northern Ireland


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