Government buyers get new model

6 December 2010
Collington to slash £13 billion common spend by 25 per cent
Collington's joint spend plan
Taylor says Collington has 'a really difficult challenge' at Whitehall
John Collington to head up central government procurement
What the spending review means for procurement

7 December 2010 | Angeline Albert

The government faces the challenge of making progress on its new procurement operational model while working with departments’ existing contracts, industry experts said. 

Last month, John Collington, the head of procurement for the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG), announced nine categories to start the central government procurement model. This aims to transform the way government buys commonly used goods and services through category management, standard specification and aggregation of spend, to save 25 per cent over four years, from the existing baseline of £13 billion. These categories would be transformed over nine months, he said.

However, questions remained  over existing deals that “may delay progress on the operational model”, said PricewaterhouseCoopers partner and procurement specialist Michael Hawdon.

“Some contracts could be terminated, others will have to run their course,” he said. “The costs of ending contracts could be more inefficient than keeping them alive. There could be many different deals kept running when less have been identified as needed. It will take longer than nine months to get all nine areas tackled.”

The Cabinet Office declined to comment on how it would end multiple contracts with existing suppliers in individual Whitehall departments in order to enable the introduction of a centralised model.

Jennifer Robinson, senior associate at procurement law specialist Pinsent Masons, said: “It’s a case-by-case issue. It will take time to sort out the spend areas. What is needed is more upfront work. Unlike the past, there should be more consultation across government to ensure departments actually use the frameworks set up.”

At London’s Efficiency, Reform & Accountability conference on 24 November, Collington said his team would specify energy, office supplies and professional services as the first three categories to be undertaken by March 2011. Travel, fleet and telecoms will be addressed by June next year and IT commodities, print management and advertising and media will be tackled by next September.

Collington said all departments have agreed to the operating model.

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