19 February 2004 | Simon Binns
Police forces are suffering from a lack of direction and co-ordination in creating and adopting e-procurement systems, according to the procurement head of the first police force to launch its own system.
Cleveland Police has recently gone live with online ordering and plans to develop it into a full e-procurement package.
The government has imposed a deadline of December 2005 for all public authorities, including police forces, to have in place an e-commerce strategy.
But Andrew Larkin, Cleveland Police's procurement manager, said both the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Police information Technology Organisation (Pito) are reluctant to head the development and co-ordination of e-procurement.
"There is no real leadership or co-ordination at a national level," Larkin said.
"The national process is just trundling along. Acpo was reluctant to take the lead on the project, so we have had to get on with it ourselves."
Larkin said it has been a long process implementing the system, virtually from scratch, at the Cleveland force.
"But someone had to dip their toe in the water because the deadline won't just go away."
An Acpo spokesman said that although its role was to "advise and guide police forces", each force would be left to implement its own strategies however it chooses to do so.
"Ultimately, it is down to the forces on this issue," he said.
"We don't tell forces what to do and we do not give directives. That is not our remit."
He added that if forces were falling behind projected government targets, Acpo would "look at the situation", but it was not aware of any force having concerns about the process.
A spokesman for Pito, which was involved in an e-procurement pilot project run by the government's main procurement advisory body, Office for Government Commerce (OGC) 18 months ago, said that the organisation was not well placed to take the lead.
The spokesman suggested that the responsibility should fall to the OGC itself.