30 January 2003 | Robin Parker
Suppliers to the public sector could have a single online point of contact with purchasers within three years under plans being drawn up by government procurement advisors.
The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) wants to set up an online hub for suppliers to 90 government departments and agencies.
It would allow buyers to do more joint buying, analyse overall spend and ensure each department is using the right supplier.
A study into the feasibility of such a system forms part of the OGC's e-procurement strategy, which aims to achieve value-for-money savings through online purchasing by March 2006.
It builds on last year's fixed-term e-procurement trials, in which seven Whitehall departments bought £800,000 of goods online.
Peter Court, e-commerce director at the OGC, said the move will help departments move out of their "silo" mode of purchasing.
"If we can improve relationships with their suppliers, and we can help them to become better at trading electronically with us, that helps UK suppliers in general to become fitter at trading online globally to government and industry," he said
Court said that earlier efforts, such as the aborted online tendering system TenderTrust, suffered from an immature software market. He added that the OGC preferred a gradual implementation of e-procurement applications over the three years.
The OGC is discussing each department's needs to establish framework agreements for e-procurement, e-auction and e-sourcing applications, the first of which is due in March.
To help build awareness of systems available to government purchasers, the OGC has put out a tender for a system to manage its own procurement data, such as supplier spend and volume.