20 September 2001 | David Arminas
The university sector's strategic procurement advisory body is set to undergo a major review of its operations in the autumn to see if it has given value for money to its financial backers.
Terms of reference are being drawn up by the Joint Procurement Policy and Strategy Group (JPPSG) to appoint a consultant to conduct the review.
Consultations will be held with university purchasers in the spring and the review should be published by mid-2002, Terry Neville, the JPPSG's director of finance, told delegates to the Conference on University Purchasing held at the University of Manchester. "We need to define where the sector is going and to this end we are commissioning a study," he said.
The JPPSG was set up in 1996 by the three higher education funding councils for England, Scotland and Wales with an original budget of nearly £1.8 million. In 1999, the funding bodies agreed to have a major review of its operations before 2003 and a further £500,000 has been added to its budget.
The aim is to provide leadership in developing procurement strategies for training, management and information systems, dissemination of best practice, co-operative procurement and development of performance measures.
Increased training is an area where the JPPSG has done very well, according to Douglas Bell, secretary of the Joint Consultative and Advisory Committee on Purchasing for Scotland and Northern Ireland. "They've extended training in procurement techniques and methods, NVQs and whole-life costing and benchmarking work," he said.
He added that even if the review is not satisfactory, he thought there would still be some central body. "To dispose of a central facility or coordinating body might be the wrong signal to send the Treasury."
In 1999, the National Audit Office said that universities in England had saved £42 million in 1996-97 through improved purchasing, but missed out on a possible £22 million of savings.
* A CD of the conference will be available to delegates in early October,containing all the presentations of the speakers. Full details are available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org