30 January 2003
Local authorities and public-sector agencies are being encouraged to use purchasing cards in a five-year scheme launched last week.
The government hopes to save more than £200 million by 2008 by widening the cards' remit beyond central government.
The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) extended its existing contract with Visa and a consortium of its UK member banks after putting the renewal of the contract out to tender.
The card has saved more than £70 million on £300 million of spend since its original launch in 1997, and it is now used by more than 39,000 people in 180 Whitehall departments.
The OGC calculates that the card saves £28 per transaction by streamlining the ways purchasers can buy low-value goods and services.
Paul Boateng, chief secretary to the Treasury, who spearheaded the initiative, said: "This significant step forward demonstrates that reductions in process costs can be made quickly when 'best practice' ideas from the private sector are taken up with vigour within the public sector."