03 March 2005 | Steve Bagshaw
Public-sector buyers must find £7 billion in cash savings by 2008 if they are to meet targets from the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the government's purchasing advisory body.
The "cashable" sum is half of the total £14 billion saving required of public-sector departments over the next three years.
In an interview with SM, Martin Sykes, executive director of the OGC's smarter procurement programme, details the areas of expenditure that will be targeted first in the plan, including printed materials, fleet and telecoms equipment costs.
Despite admitting that neither he nor anybody else knows precisely how much is spent in public-sector procurement, Sykes describes how so-called commodities panels will carry out "scoping exercises".
As part of their remit, these panels will assess spending totals and how future contracts will be handled.
He also explains that he is to assign newly recruited procurement development directors to certain "high-spending" Whitehall departments.
Furthermore, he highlights the "cultural" challenges of introducing changes to civil service departments.
"There is a bit of a job threat about this," he admits, before reassuring buyers that although there will be no job losses as a result of his plan, some individuals may have to change roles.
He also says he will be unable to force buying departments to co-operate on contracts.
Despite these challenges, he is keen to highlight what he sees as a rare opportunity for procurement professionals to shine at the highest levels of government.
"It won't serve us terribly well if we are fighting our own corner and not collaborating," he tells us.