11 March 2008 | Paul Snell
The devolution of authority to individual public sector bodies is hampering efforts to increase collaborative procurement, according to a new study.
According to the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future (FftF), "the increasing autonomous procurement of local authorities and NHS trusts undermines national and regional procurement efforts".
The Buying a Better World study said a lack of commitment of spend to framework agreements was reducing buying power and economies of scale. It also said procurement teams were overstretched, their time taken up by contracts better handled centrally.
The charity said a "more formal procurement hierarchy" would identify contracts better suited to regional or national buying, raising standards, reducing prices and encouraging suppliers to provide sustainable options for buyers. It would also free up departments to concentrate on more strategic projects.
The group has developed a toolkit, based on research carried out by the East Midlands Centre of Excellence and piloted by the NHS, to help public sector buyers incorporate sustainability into its purchasing decisions.
"The time for promises is over," said Deborah Fox, director, public sector programme at FftF. "The public sector needs to lead by example and making better, more sustainable purchasing decisions is a low-cost approach that will deliver considerable benefits."