18 September 2003 | Colleen Harris
The first stage of an e-procurement system designed to bring purchasers and suppliers in the Welsh public sector together will be launched next month.
The e-Information website will allow the Welsh public sector to inform businesses, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, of tender opportunities and the general needs of authorities, Welsh national departments and agencies, and other public authorities.
It will contain separate areas for suppliers and purchasers. Suppliers will be able to update their profiles, and both groups will be able to download standard forms and interact in forums to share ideas and information.
The e-Information site is spearheaded by Philip Holmes, head of e-business at the Welsh Procurement Initiative Team, set up by the National Assembly for Wales last year.
"It is a mechanism to get the Welsh public-sector procurement community together in one place and start the ball rolling towards full e-procurement," said Holmes, who hopes to have 8,000 Welsh suppliers registered to the site in a year.
He added: "Wales is a fairly socially deprived area and we feel and believe that we have an obligation to help support local businesses. This is one way we can do that with minimal cost."
The website will also be open to larger companies outside Wales.
Holmes said 35 out of a possible 106 Welsh public-sector organisations had registered with the site so far.
Andrew Maisey, head of procurement at Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said the site should help to inform authorities about those SMEs that miss out on tenders.
"Some of the contracts SMEs go for are quite low value and aren't advertised. So we tend to use the suppliers we know. If we aren't aware of other suppliers, clearly they don't get an opportunity," he said.
The next sites to be launched are e-tendering, where a number of pilots are already running, followed by e-procurement, both likely to be running next year.
· The e-Information website will be available next month at www.xchangewales.co.uk