Northern Ireland's government departments spent £2.7bn on public procurement in 2010/11, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson told MLAs, on 8 October 2012.
Mr Wilson was briefing the Assembly on the state of public procurement.
"I want to assure members that public procurement is meeting expectations and achieving best value for money," he said.
The minister said he wanted to address a number of common misconceptions concerning procurement.
He assured members that local firms did not "play second fiddle" to multinational, that small firms did not lose out, and that it was not the case that micro and small businesses were unable to contract directly with the government.
Mr Wilson emphasised the importance of social clauses in procurement contracts to encourage employment and training opportunities.
"At times of high unemployment we must exploit these opportunities to the full, " he added.
John Dallat of the SDLP criticised "rogue" arms-length bodies, which he said consistently ignored the basic principles of procurement.
Mr Dallat gave as examples the Belfast Education and Library Board, Northern Ireland Water and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.