University purchasers warned over regulation

20 September 2000
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21 September 2000 | David Arminas

University purchasing officers must co-operate more fully for greater sector-wide efficiencies or face external regulation, according to the chairman of the universities' national purchasing strategy advisory body.

"I bet that the National Audit Office (NAO) will look at us again in three years' time," Sir Graeme Davies told delegates to the annual Association of University Purchasing Officers conference at the University of Durham. "The development of purchasing strategies must be seen in the context of external bodies."

"It's absolutely fundamental that we work together. If we don't, someone will do it for us," added Davies, who is also principal and vice-chancellor at the University of Glasgow.

"The NAO had never come near the sector until 1993," Davies said. It waited another five or six years until it came back. I don't think it will wait as long again. The NAO will come back to look at specific areas, say procurement of equipment."

In what many delegates felt was a "concilliatory" speech, Davies laid to rest fears among purchasing staff that their traditionally autonomous powers and consortia would be reduced in favour of central directives.

The Joint Procurement Policy and Strategy Group (JPPSG) will be more like the Office of Government Commerce, he said, and focus on enabling strategies.

"The JPPSG is a long way from the action so it's hard for it the group to be relevant to people at the coal face," said Geoffrey Beard, purchasing officer at the University of Liverpool.

The body caused a stir last year when it published a report that proposed a more centralised purchasing focus for universities.


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