04 May 2000 | David Arminas
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), the top policy-making body of the police forces in England and Wales, has approved a national strategy aimed at increasing collaborative purchasing.
Around 150 goods and services, including computer consumables, such as disks and printer cartridges, building maintenance, health and safety equipment and dog food, have been allocated to the nine police regions for consideration.
"We're asking the regions to produce a business case for items," said Caroline Hastings, chairman of the quality assurance (QA) group and purchasing manager at the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. The group will consider the business case for local, regional or national contracts.
The contracts will not be mandatory. Regions are expected to co-operate when purchasing expertise lies outside the "lead" region for a particular item or service, added Hastings.
The plan calls for four focus groups, including the QA group, to co-ordinate procurement. The marketing and communications group will make sure that purchasing policies and methods are known within the police forces and throughout their supply chains.
A training group will keep procurement skills up to date, while IT services company Achilles Information will maintain a list of accredited suppliers.
It is hoped that the strategy will save around £40 million over the next two years out of the 43 forces' annual spend of £1.5 billion. This is in line with the government's 1998 comprehensive spending review.
In the same year, a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) suggested that a national procurement strategy that considered regional and national contracts was sorely needed.
"The £40 million is still a target, it's been set by the government," said Barbara Hill, chairman of the Association of Police Purchasing and Contract Managers. "There has already been a fair amount of collaboration between the forces and regions, but huge savings are not expected right away."
Specific targets have not been set for regions or forces, she added.
Hill felt that e-procurement was still a long way off, but said that the Achilles database could be the basis of a future project.
While forces and regions will not be forced into contracts, all forces are now subject to best value legislation, added Hill. HMIC will expect good reasons from forces that do not join national, regional or local contracts.
Jerry Goddard, vice-chairman of Acpo's sub-committee on procurement, said that tentative plans had been made to expand the Achilles database over the web or set up an intranet including business case and contract details. "The idea is to include everyone through greater collaboration," he said.