09 September 2004
The National Assembly for Wales is looking for ways to help local suppliers win more contracts from Welsh public-sector bodies.
Its business procurement task force will meet for the first time this month. It will be chaired by Andrew Davies, Wales's minister for economic development and transport.
The 16-member body includes representatives from the Welsh Development Agency, Welsh local government, and from Education and Learning Wales, as well as industry bodies including CBI Wales, the Federation of Small Businesses and Wales TUC.
Paul Skellon, who heads the Welsh Procurement Initiative, set up in 2002 to make Welsh public-sector purchasing more professional, said the idea was to allow small companies with limited resources and experience in tendering to compete with larger, more experienced companies.
"At present they find it disproportionately difficult because supplies are often agglomerated into national contracts," he said.
Currently about 35 per cent of Wales's £4 billion annual public spend is won by companies with a local presence.
Another member of the task force, Professor Michael Quayle, who holds the Bosch chair in purchasing and supply management at Glamorgan Business School, said this could be at least 5 per cent higher, adding £200 million a year to the local economy. Quayle said the task force faced "a huge but 'doable' challenge".
He also questioned outdated purchasing rules such as requiring companies to produce six years of accounts to be eligible for contracts. This can automatically exclude start-up small firms.
But Skellon said Welsh companies were already reaping the benefits of the new approach to procurement in the food sector, where work to bring local suppliers and buyers together has been going on for more than a year.