19 June 2008
Public sector buyers have been urged to play a key role in tackling social problems.
In a guide published by the OGC last week, purchasers were asked to address social considerations early in the procurement process so they can identify areas of society in need of improvement and contribute to making them better.
The report was launched by Angela Eagle, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, at this year's Procurement Solutions event in London. She said buyers have a duty to improve the living conditions and work prospects of UK citizens. "It gives us the chance as procurement professionals and government to be creative, to find new innovative ways of delivering services. If that means a school is better than it would have been, then that can change people's lives. If it means a better-run hospital, it could even save lives."
The guide explains how this can be achieved through each stage of the procurement process. It advised buyers to engage with trade unions or human rights organisations to learn more about problem areas in society before tendering. Once an idea for improvement is formed, a business case should be put in place to support it. This could include creating fair employment policies, for example.
The guide also said it is possible for buyers to set their social aims as a core requirement of an agreement when contracting. And after a deal is struck, buyers could work on a voluntary basis to promote issues such as equality and training with vendors.
Eagle said there would be no official targets for purchasers: "This is a developing area and we want buyers to demonstrate best practice rather than setting top-down [targets]. We want to get the best possible value from taxpayers' money as well as achieving wider objectives."