05 January 2006 | Anusha Bradley
HM Prison Service plans to recruit 78 qualified purchasers this year as part of a major overhaul of its procurement department.
Changes were prompted by a 2003 National Audit Office report which recommended a shake-up.
Vincent Godfrey, who joined 18 months ago as head of procurement to lead the turnaround, last year established a 36-strong corporate procurement unit.
He told SM
the department, which spends about £450 million a year, needs to save £1.7 million on staff costs and £3 million in cash to meet this year's Gershon efficiency target.
Godfrey reorganised six regional teams into five and is now seeking professional purchasers to fill the posts. Around 300 administrative staff who previously carried out some purchasing tasks have either left or relocated.
Godfrey said: "The staff in the regional teams were not professional purchasers but most of the procurement was left to them. It was a different organisation."
The five purchasing teams, led by Tony Fletcher, head of procurement services, are based in Wakefield, Corby, the north west, West Midlands, and London and the south east. Staff for Wakefield and Corby have already been recruited and are expected to start next week.
Godfrey admitted that it was difficult to find skilled buyers who demonstrated "commercial nous and entrepreneurship". Fletcher said he hoped to attract graduate-level buyers who would progress through the organisation.
A recruitment drive has been launched to find three purchasers for the central unit and a further 75 for the regional teams. Each team will have around 25 purchasers and will include contract management experts to ensure the department is getting the most from its deals.