Buyers must make best use of outside help

29 June 2009

30 June 2009 | Jake Kanter

Public sector purchasers must use external expertise effectively when undertaking major procurement projects, the OGC has said.

The government agency said all - particularly major - purchasing programmes should include an "assurance plan" to assist in delivering them on time, within budget and to quality standards.

It issued the advice yesterday in the latest instalment of its Lessons Learnt series. This draws on recommendations made in more than 2,000 gateway reviews of government change initiatives, including some procurement projects.

Assurance assessments can be provided chiefly by civil servants working outside the project but could also include consultants. They should be budgeted for and appropriately resourced, the OGC said. This needs to be "proportionate with the complexity of and risks associated with the project".

The OGC said effective assurance plans require support from senior management and should be implemented early in a project life cycle to ensure they deliver maximum value.

It also urged buyers to share the recommendations made by external auditors with other stakeholders involved in the project. Not sharing information could result in "ignorant" decisions and possible delays, it warned.

The organisation added that advice should be submitted to senior management so remedial action can be approved. For example, reports on IT projects should be sent to the chief information officer.

Many public procurement projects have come under fire for delays and cost blowouts associated with poor assurance plans. Last week the Public Accounts Committee said the MoD's project to build six Type 45 Destroyer ships had overspent by £1.5 billion and was two years late because of "unrealistic" cost and time objectives (Web news, 24 June 2009).


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