Damning verdict for Ministry of Justice

8 December 2008
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08 December 2008 | Paul Snell

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has received an excoriating appraisal of its procurement performance in the latest round of OGC capability reviews.

In its ongoing performance assessment the OGC has rated four more central government departments - the MoJ, Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Health - on their procurement leadership, skills and systems, giving them a "traffic light" rating from green to red in nine areas.

The MoJ received three red rankings, meaning "serious concerns", as well as five amber/red and one amber. The worst of any department covered to date. The report described the department's commercial function as "devolved and inconsistent", and resources were not deployed to the "greatest commercial benefit".

It also found there was no defined commercial vision or strategy, and suppliers have unflattering views of contract and relationship management processes. There was no scorecard across the department providing information on costs, spend data, contract information and savings. In response, the department's permanent secretary, Suma Chakrabarti, stated the MoJ was only established 18 months ago.

"Not surprisingly, procurement is evolving with some examples of best practice and other areas where improvement is needed," she said. "We are committed to addressing this; a new procurement strategy has been approved and implementation is under way. This is a far-reaching improvement programme to produce significant savings while addressing the issues raised in the review."

The MoJ appointed Vincent Godfrey, previously head of procurement at theNational Offender Management Service, as director of procurement last month.

The OGC also criticised the Department of Health in its report, for "dysfunctional behaviour" caused by the lack of an overall commercial strategy. In addition it revealed there is open and clandestine competition between groups such as NHS Supply Chain and regional procurement hubs providing purchasing services to the NHS, which the OGC said was promoting "inappropriate behaviour".

The report also highlighted the commercial directorate's reliance on consultants, with dependence on individuals in "key commercial areas" (News, 2 November 2006).

The Home Office and HM Revenue and Customs had more positive reviews.

The Home Office was praised for "excellent progress" and "clear sense of purpose and strong commercial leadership", with the pace of change described as "impressive". But the OGC warned the department it would be severely challenged to deliver its procurement projects with its current resources.

HMRC's report credited commercial director David Thomas with a turn round in performance over the past two years and the commercial directorate's "rapidly improving" reputation, with SRM in place for key suppliers. But restricting use of the Government Procurement Card to emergencies was "counter to normal practice" and affecting staff morale.

SMdec2008

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