28 November 2002 | Liam O'Brien
Public-sector purchasers in Wales are set to benefit from a major training initiative to beef up buying skills in the country.
The National Assembly for Wales is launching a multi-million pound training programme with consultancy PMMS to address skills shortages.
Staff at all of Wales' 100-plus government bodies will use the open-ended scheme, including those in local government, the NHS, higher and further education and the emergency services.
Skills gaps were first identified by an assembly probe into procurement published last November, which said that £90 million could be diverted to Welsh front-line services if better purchasing were conducted.
A team of 20 trainers is set to begin work in January tutoring individuals at all levels, from basic procurement to senior executive level. Early courses will include the basics of purchasing, European Commission law and legal aspects, supplier management, and negotiation skills.
The Welsh Procurement Initiative (WPI), set up in August to achieve best value from public-sector procurement in Wales, identified only 400 professional practitioners in the whole of the Welsh public sector.
Alison Standfast, head of the best-practice programme at WPI, said: "There have been some pockets that have been good. But there are others where a procurement department does not even exist, with the result of a lack of consistency and approach and differing standards."
John Codd, business manager at Rhondda-Cynon-Taf Borough Council and a member of the Welsh Local Government Association, said: "Training needs in procurement have been fragmented for many years, with councils doing their own thing. This is the first genuine attempt to train people in the art of procurement."
Douglas Powell, procurement manager at Gwynedd Council, welcomed the scheme and said his council would be the first to take advantage of it.
"This is raising the profile of procurement," he added.
Adrian Hobson, procurement manager at Cadw, the Welsh historic monuments organisation, said: "Wales is a very manageable size, a lot of the key people know each other already."