05 October 2007 | Antony Barton
Many further education colleges are let down by poor management information and inferior procurement infrastructure, according to a committee of MPs.
A report from the Committee of Public Accounts released yesterday said most colleges are not using their accounting systems to generate basic analyses, such as the volume of business they do with a particular supplier.
It says the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) should work with colleges to improve systems and management so they can, at the very least, identify expenditure patterns on basic items.
Edward Leigh, chairman of the committee, said: "Many further education colleges have been slow to modernise their processes for buying fuel, catering, stationery and other supplies. This is a serious point because money saved on procurement - the target for the whole sector is an annual £75 million but that might easily be improved upon - could be redirected towards teaching and other front-line services."
The committee acknowledged, however, that the former Department for Education and Skills and the LSC had improved the support they provided colleges wishing to modernise procurement methods. It noted recent successes in persuading colleges to join purchasing consortia and use procurement cards, and said the LSC's savings target of £75 million by March 2008 may prove unambitious in light of the low starting point of many colleges.