Public sector 'difficult'

6 June 2007
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07 June 2007 | Antony Barton

The public sector knows suppliers find it complicated to work with but makes little effort to change, according to one of its leading procurement experts.

David Smith, commercial director of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said the sector "sometimes revels in the fact that it is difficult to do business with". He added Whitehall departments are "most certainly not" using a joined-up approach to suppliers, despite government claims.

Addressing London authority buyers, Smith also discussed the DWP's spending review targets up to 2011. It has a £4.2 billion annual procurement spend and represents 29 per cent of total central government procurement. Value-for-money targets are 5 per cent each year over the period.

Smith said much DWP spend is directed towards the third sector or welfare-to-work programmes and must remain untouched. The targets "bring tears to my eyes", he said, and present "a huge challenge for us, where we don't currently have all the answers".

Nevertheless, he remains optimistic. The DWP achieved £470.9 million value-for-money savings in 2005-06 and reduced third-party expenditure for the first time. This is despite earlier problems with DWP processes.

"Our financial regimes were very poor and didn't support good commercial behaviours. In fact they were designed almost to do the opposite," he said. In his view the way to meet targets is to reduce demand. To help achieve this, he encourages the DWP leadership to engage more with procurement before making commercial decisions.

  • Smith will be speaking at the CIPS/SM public sector conference in London on 20 September (info: 020 7880 6214)


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