21 October 2004 | David Arminas
The new head of procurement for the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) is set to examine the purchasing practices of companies that receive agency grants.
Allan Openshaw, formerly director of the Midlands Universities Purchasing Consortium, said the nine English regional development agencies (RDAs) are changing their role.
"They are handling more and more projects and, like all non-government departmental public bodies, the government is demanding savings as set out in the Gershon efficiency review."
Grant money spent more wisely by companies could deliver savings that can be used for other projects.
The NWDA gets £400 million a year from the government. About £270 million is given as grants for local regeneration and development projects.
The remaining £130 million is spent on stationery, catering, IT and professional services, including consultancies. Projects already go through rigorous political, economic and strategic risk assessments, said Openshaw, who has three contract managers in his department.
"But from a technical point of view, if there is an element of procurement in the grant projects, then I want to know about it. This is just good practice."
One issue surrounds whether a contract sum above the European Union threshold of £150,000 needs to be advertised in the Official Journal of the EU, even though it would be spent by a private company.
"These are the types of issues upon which the NWDA procurement team could offer advice to those companies that are receiving agency grants," Openshaw said.