17 March 2005 | Cara Whitehouse
The government must improve its advice to purchasers on how to balance efficiency savings and environmental concerns when awarding contracts.
The call comes from Roy Ayliffe, CIPS director of professional practice, after the institute gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) earlier this month.
"Government purchasers can achieve sustainable objectives as well as efficiency gains," he said. "But on occasions where a choice has to be made between sustainability and efficiency, political leadership must make it clear which is the higher priority.
"It is up to the politicians to make that choice, not procurement people."
Energy procurement is an example of the dilemma, said CIPS. Purchasers must decide whether to buy so-called green energy, produced from renewable sources and often costing a premium, or energy from oil or gas fired plant that is likely to cost less.
Ayliffe's comments follow oral evidence given by him and Ken James, CIPS chief executive to the EAC which is conducting an inquiry into procurement issues.
The EAC's inquiry began in December. Its findings are to be published in late April and are likely to form the basis of future advice.
It is looking at how the drive for public-sector efficiencies since the Gershon Review last year may affect the inclusion of environmental considerations within procurement policies.
A spokeswoman for the EAC said it is the first time the committee has investigated procurement in such detail.