18 November 2004 | David Arminas
The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) has used an e-auction to save more than 10 per cent a year off its £10 million annual budget for court reporters and transcription services.
Troy Martin, contracts manager in charge of the e-auction and resulting contract, said the deal could save about £3.2 million over its four-year duration.
The DCA uses on average 150 court reporters a day, normally one per courtroom. They are officially called computer-aided transcription writers, known as cat-writers, and record the words of judges, witnesses and the legal representatives.
The DCA split the contract into 13 geographical regions and suppliers bid for an entire region or several regions. Eleven suppliers went into prequalification but only nine suppliers were chosen for the auction.
He said the auction - the first for cat-writers and only the second one for the DCA - unexpectedly lasted as long as five hours.
Martin was pleased with the response from suppliers because they are all small and medium sized firms.
Paul Newman, e-commerce adviser at the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), said the DCA event showed that e-auctions could be used for complex service requirements.
"This event has also proved that e-auctions are not a barrier to SMEs competing successfully for government business."
The OGC has set up a fund to help departments put together e-auctions. The DCA is considering an auction for cleaning consumables for its 400 buildings. This number will significantly increase by next April when the DCA takes over magistrates courts, which are currently run by local authorities.