Charity purchasers challenge IT plans

5 September 2001
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06 September 2001 | Robin Parker

Purchasers in leading UK charities have hit back at plans that could exclude them from major joint IT buying decisions.

A sub-committee of the Charities' Consortium's IT Directors Forum, representing 55 charities, will decide this week whether they are to use the Buying Team consultancy.

But SM has learned that only one purchaser was at the sub-committee's initial gathering and she will not continue to attend meetings. She claimed the forum is uninterested in procurement's experience of IT and consultancy buying.

Belinda Turner, procurement manager of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said: "The IT directors were understandably more concerned about products and their own supplier relationships."

Michael Hodgetts, national purchasing manager at the Leonard Cheshire charity, which supports disabled people, will also play no part in the consortium's activities.

"The purchasing profession should lead initiatives such as this," he told SM. "If not, forum members should ask where it is that the buying strategy is coming from." IT buyers and purchasers think joint buying decisions within the consortium could be complicated by charities' different purchasing structures.

Mike Wilson-Jarvis, Oxfam's purchasing manager, said he promoted existing procurement practices in talks about joint purchasing with his IT department. "We established that IT buyers can do what they like to secure deals as long as they follow our best-practice guidelines," he said.

Graeme Steele, forum treasurer and Oxfam's IT director, defended the use of external services as a necessity. "IT directors are busy people and we don't have the resources to keep things moving internally," he said.

He added that purchasing managers would be involved in some way if the proposal went ahead, though he declined to comment further until forum members had voted.

Bob Harvey, head of IT at Barnardo's, said: "Purchasing something unique to your organisation's needs is a complex spend that needs the expertise of IT directors."

Buying Team estimates that the UK charity sector spends up to £700 million a year on IT.


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