08 September 2005 | Helen Gilbert
The number of local authority employees with procurement knowledge and qualifications needs to increase if the current "capacity gap", is to be addressed, according to the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government.
Peter Howarth, chief executive, believes local councils should adopt an "invest to save" approach to developing staff procurement skills and knowledge.
His comments follow the findings of a report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which revealed that formal procurement training remains underused among both dedicated buying operations and staff in front-line departments.
The study, Evaluation of the Local Government Procurement Agenda Baseline Survey Report, conducted by the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, was based on responses from 157 authorities.
It found that more than a third of authorities provide general training in procurement for
both corporate and departmental staff, but only 50 per cent have any staff with the most commonly held qualification - the CIPS graduate diploma.
"There is a capacity gap in local government procurement," Howarth told SM. "We need to be thinking longer-term. We need to ensure there are facilities available to provide the knowledge and training necessary to develop skills and attract graduates into procurement."
Dr Gordon Murray, programme manager for procurement within efficiency services at the Improvement and Development Agency, said local government procurement needed to focus on areas such as continual professional development.
"It would be great if we could encourage more people to come into procurement, and I would support the idea of graduate development," he said.
Chris Gallagher, director in charge of qualifications at CIPS said: "Things like the efficiency review have put procurement in the spotlight. Training is a way to address instant issues but a professional qualification embeds long-term skills.
"The new ladder of qualifications we've created has entry and exit points so you can come in at any level." See Ladder of Learning feature