Three billion pounds per year was spent on public procurement of items such as the purchase of supplies, and construction MLAs were told, on 3 October 2011.
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said procurement could be an important tool to grow the economy and ensure the achievement of social objectives through the use of social clauses in contracts.
Mr Murphy called for called for a more coherent approach to procurement across government departments to achieve these ends.
Dominic Bradley moved an SDLP amendment calling for the adoption of a social clause model developed by the department of social development.
Adrian McQuillan of the DUP said it was important that all government contracts be awarded fairly and transparently. He supported the motion.
Judith Cochrane of Alliance called for greater co-operation between central and local government on procurement.
Finance minister Sammy Wilson referred to what he said were inaccurate reports in the media regarding government procurement.
He said the executive had set up an efficiency reform group, and work was being done to maximise the buying potential of the public sector.
Turning to the subject of open competition for government tenders, the minister said there were problems of increased bureaucracy but it did show a determination to achieve value for money.
In terms of help for business Mr Wilson said the executive did its best to help local businesses to win tenders.
He criticised the role of "Big Brother in Brussels" for restricting opportunities for the use of social clauses in procurement contracts.
The motion was passed as amended.
At the beginning of business, the Speaker, William Hay, and the UUP's Danny Kennedy paid tribute to Norma Coulter, who worked for the Ulster Unionist Party at Parliament Buildings and died last week.