06 June 2002 | Robin Parker
A long-awaited e-marketplace for local government has signed up its first two clients.
Slough Borough Council is using IDeA Marketplace for IT equipment and community meals services, and is set to extend the solution across the organisation within six months.
The London Borough of Sutton has introduced it as part of a best-value review of its procurement strategy, to forge stronger links with more than 6,000 local small suppliers.
IDeA Marketplace, developed by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), the local authority think-tank, has been in development for the past year.
It aims to give the 409 authorities in England and Wales a self-service system of collaborative e-procurement and cut their combined £25 billion annual spend on goods and services.
Simon Pallett, IT project leader at Slough Borough Council, said the authority has introduced the system to stamp out maverick buying and to prepare for potential consortia buying with other councils.
"We want to establish a set regime for procurement, as each department was doing its own thing and we had no firm policy or commitment to purchase order-based accounting," he said.
"Now we can link an output file of all purchase orders raised into our financial system using just a web browser."
Peter Howarth, consultant at IDeA and head of the CIPS local authority committee, said the agency aims to install the system in 40 councils by the end of the year, and has received interest from about 200 authorities.
He said it would cost councils £200 million to implement e-procurement individually, on top of the estimated £2.5 billion needed to meet the government's target of getting all services online by 2005.