Centralised buying sparks major revamp for council

14 December 2000
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14 December 2000 | David Arminas

Salford City Council has put purchase order processing on an SAP system this month as part of a major revamp to centralise its procurement.

"The council's purchasing had been fragmented for many years," said Terry Harrisson, Salford's purchasing manager. "As from now, all council departments will place their orders for processing with the central procurement function [officially] set up on 30 October."

The new function is now part of the council's financial support group and has 14 people, most taken from departments where they were in general purchasing administration, before the centralisation.

The council decided in early 1999 to centralise its purchasing and introduce SAP, which went live for testing in Salford's accounts department in April. Savings on general goods and services are targeted at a "conservative 3 per cent", Harrisson said. "For a council that has struggled financially, it is gratifying that they have gone down this road."

Harrisson believes that SAP will help the council achieve the best-value targets that all local authorities were required to set out for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) in March.

The Audit Commission is reviewing how the councils achieve best value and their targets, said Peter Howarth, procurement manager at Suffolk County Council, now on secondment to the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).

The IDeA, set up last April by the Local Government Association, is creating an e-procurement hub called Marketplace. Howarth, who is in charge of its development, said it would help councils to achieve best value.

A decision on a software supplier will be made by January and a pilot is expected to be running by 1 April.

By May, Sir Ian Byatt's local government procurement taskforce will report to the DETR on ways for councils to achieve best value. Since September, Byatt, a former director-general of water regulator Ofwat, has been taking evidence from local authorities, private contractors and suppliers.

SMdec2000

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