10 March 2009 | Jake Kanter
HM Prison Service procurement has been hailed for its "substantial" improvement, five years after a critical report from the government.
In a review released today the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the service had responded "positively and decisively" to criticisms the group of MPs made about prison procurement in 2003.
The service had acted on 13 of 19 recommendations made by the PAC five years ago and saved £120 million during the period.
It had overhauled its procurement strategy by improving supplier relationships, buying more locally and forming a centralised purchasing team.
The service had also invested significantly in recruiting and training buyers and introduced new purchasing technology.
Six years ago the MPs slammed the organisation's poor procurement after finding evidence of rocketing levels of spending and low take-up of national contracts (News, 2 October 2003).
PAC chairman Edward Leigh said such a positive reaction to the committee's recommendations was rare.
"All too regularly, this Committee has to take to task government bodies for failing to act. This is not one of those occasions. The Prison Service is to be congratulated for responding so decisively to our wide-ranging set of recommendations made five years ago."
The Ministry of Justice, which received an excoriating appraisal of its procurement performance in an OGC capability review last year, is to use the Prison Service's purchasing model across its operations.