31 August 2010 | Angeline Albert
Whitehall departments will be made to use a collaborative procurement model, according to John Collington, the new head of procurement at the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group.
As the government struggles to cut spending in the face of its £155 billion budget deficit, Collington has left his role as commercial director at the Home Office to lead central government’s effort to force down supplier prices using joint buying across departments.
He told SM he would mandate use of joint buying but would seek consensus between Whitehall purchasing teams. He would not describe any punitive measures to discourage rogue procurement.
“I believe you have to make it much easier for departments to collaborate. I am a keen proponent of consensual work.”
However, he insisted government buying needs a new approach. “We have to ensure that procurement changes. If you evaluate what’s happened to the public sector in comparison to the private sector, there’s been the absence of mandation. Where it makes sense to mandate – centralisation of commodity spend for example – then that will be set and departments will be expected to support that model.“
Collington is set to start the most senior procurement role in government tomorrow [1 September]. He will report to Ian Watmore, who began as chief operating officer this month.
To help shape a new model for the centralisation of commodity procurement at Whitehall, for the past two months Collington has sought input from government departments, which have had to plan for spending cuts of up to 40 per cent.
He is expected to present his plan to Watmore later this month.
The Department for Education’s commercial director, Ian Taylor, said Collington has a tough job ahead. Taylor, who leaves his job at the end of this month, said: “He’s got a difficult challenge bringing together dozens of different organisations. I’ve had my part to play in building strategy for modernising commodity procurement. It will be interesting to see his improvement.”
In May, the National Audit Office found the government has made limited progress on joint procurement, with public bodies paying a wide range of prices for the same commodities, even within the existing collaborative arrangements.