07 March 2007 | Antony Barton
New food procurement recommendations could save the public sector £220 million each year by 2011.
Measures outlined in the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts report, Smarter Food Procurement in the Public Sector, include price benchmarking surveys, increased e-procurement use, securing explanations from frontline organisations for price discrepancies and raising levels of joint purchasing.
The recommendations follow reviews of the organisations that oversee the three largest areas of public food expenditure - the Department for Education and Skills, the Ministry of Defence and the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency.
Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee, insisted that raising the standard of food served in schools, hospitals and the armed forces need not be at the expense of the taxpayer or small producer. "Better, more cooperative ways of procuring food can achieve improved value for the public sector while also benefiting local economies," he said. "Negotiations with major contract caterers should be much more hard-headed, especially over the hidden rebates and discounts which those caterers can achieve but too often fail to pass on to the public sector."
Conservative party leader David Cameron recently called for a "revolution" in the way the government purchased food. He said it was not properly considering its role as a food buyer. "Government is a big player, its actions can make a big difference," he claimed. (News, 18 January 2007)