27 February 2003 | David Arminas
Purchasers at the London Borough of Haringey have been awarded top marks by the Audit Commission - just a year after being criticised for having no procurement strategy at all.
The procurement unit, set up from scratch after last year's damning report, is now providing a good service with "excellent prospects for improvement", the commission said.
It continued: "The corporate procurement strategy provides clear and challenging aims for procurement and how it will support the delivery of the council's priorities." It specifically pointed to the delivery of education as an area where "purchasing is playing a key role in addressing serious weaknesses".
Procurement has set up a three-year outsourcing deal with consultancy Capita to provide strategic education management. Successes include the council's educational development plan for 2002-07, which was assessed as one of the six best in the country in the commission's report.
Sally Brooks, head of procurement, said the report's conclusion that procurement is helping the council to achieve its main targets for delivering community services showed purchasing is in the front line of its business agenda.
"We were set up only a year ago after a district audit best value report on procurement said there was very little going on," Brooks said.
"We have quickly moved on from that to showing that procurement is about enabling service delivery. It is not about saying to people, 'you can't do that'."
Brooks said the Capita contract was an example of partnership deals working well, but she acknowledged that purchasing at Haringey has work to do in large contract management.
"The amount of money we spend on servicing contracts is phenomenal and we must build this ability in all our 30 business units," she said.
"Spending on agency staff is up to £20 million year. Compare that with half a million on stationery and you soon see that the big issues in local government are not about buying things but procuring services."