20 November 2009 | Allie Anderson
The Northern Ireland government has beaten its target to channel most spend through official procurement bodies, but maverick purchases still exist.
The government's 2002 public procurement policy set out a target for 93 per cent of public spending to be directed through its eight Centres of Procurement Expertise (CoPEs), which includes the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD). These were set up in the same year to advise on purchasing procedures, as well as to buy on behalf of government departments, agencies, non-departmental public bodies and public corporations, with the aim of saving money.
During the 2008-2009 financial year, 96 per cent of purchases went through CoPEs, but some departments are continuing to buy smaller, low-cost goods and services independently and without guidance.
A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland's Department for Finance and Personnel (DFP) told SM: "Although we encourage departments to follow the policy to channel all procurement through CoPE, the target in the DFP Operational Plan 2010 is 95 per cent. This target has been achieved.
"Departments are working with their non-departmental public bodies to increase the percentage of procurement spend put through CoPEs and this work is being aided by the CPD," she said.
Bodies that do not meet the 95 per cent target "must seek to reduce non-CoPE spend by 25 per cent year on year".
Des Armstrong, director of the CPD, said: "The achievement of 96 per cent of all public procurement spend being channelled through CPD and other CoPEs highlights the increasingly important role procurement professionals play in driving best value for money in the delivery of better public services."
The plan is to eventually channel all spend through the centres of expertise.
The figures were unveiled last week as finance minister Sammy Wilson announced that Northern Ireland's public procurement spend increased by 9 per cent to about £2.4 billion, compared with the government's 2007-2008 financial year. Investment in construction projects received the biggest boost, increasing by £104 million to just over £1 billion.
Wilson said: "[The funding] provided much-needed investment in the local economy. This is not just about spending money; it's about making a real impact on local communities in Northern Ireland through the delivery of new schools, roads and services. Despite the current climate, the executive continues to increase public procurement expenditure and to invest in the public infrastructure of Northern Ireland."