20 January 2005 | Cara Whitehouse
The National Probation Service (NPS) has saved nearly a quarter of a million pounds in its first online auction.
Civil servants had expected to spend £2.6 million on the IT contract but completing it online knocked 9 per cent off the total.
This is equal to £233,000 in what is likely to be the first of many e-auctions for the Home Office, according to Eric Davies, head of procurement for the NPS.
"We ultimately hope to make e-auctions a normal way of buying," he said.
"We have got the bit between our teeth and procurement is supporting the business, which is under increasing commercial pressure since the Gershon efficiency review."
The auction took place at the end of December, with five suppliers bidding on a series of seven lots in a three-hour period.
It allowed the NPS to receive a total of 74 competitive bids from the suppliers, as opposed to the seven that would arrive through a conventional process.
The NPS also created an on-line algorithm to reflect the quality of bidders' pitches, including their delivery times.
Davies, who previously ran e-auctions in the private sector, said a suite of framework contracts set up by the Office of Government Commerce with e-auction providers were crucial for helping government departments start using them.
The NPS spends £250 million a year in its role to reintegrate prisoners back into society and prevent reoffending.