18 July 2002 | David Arminas
Police forces in England and Wales will be under pressure to use a national e-procurement system if a proposed pilot scheme proves savings can be made.
The Devon and Cornwall Constabulary and the Centre for Research in Strategic Purchasing and Supply at the University of Bath are currently putting together a business case for the system. They are due to present it to the procurement sub-committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) in November.
Ian Readhead, deputy constable of Hampshire and Isle of Wight constabularies and head of the Acpo sub-committee, told SM: "My task is to put forward a system so good that police forces would need a good reason from their governing authority if they chose not to opt in."
Readhead added that police forces are under pressure to save money that can be better spent on policing the streets.
The pilot scheme would involve five constabularies in the south-west - Devon and Cornwall, Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire - and would start in early 2003, according to David Lazenby, head of commercial and property services at Devon and Cornwall Constabulary.
"At the moment there are only some small electronic ordering packages used by several police forces," said Lazenby, who is also secretary of the Association of Police Purchasing and Contract Managers.
The move was welcomed by Mike Hopkins, commissioning manager for Cleveland Police, who believed a national system should help to bring the majority of police purchasing departments "up to the same speed".
"People are starting to run with many mini-projects for improving purchasing and we are also studying online requisitioning," he said. "A national system would help purchasers who have not yet been proactive."
Steve Atherton, director of procurement at the Metropolitan Police Service, Britain's largest police force with a £400,000 procurement budget, said use of a scheme should be more mandatory than optional if the pilot scheme is successful.
"If the system is optional, people will opt out or in according to their own personal agenda," he said. "Suppliers will not then come on board and the whole thing will fall into disarray."