Industry urges government to review procurement skills

15 April 2011

15 April 2011 | Lindsay Clark

The UK’s prime minister should ask the cabinet secretary to conduct a thorough capability review to strengthen the procurement of the nation’s infrastructure, an industry group said.

The call came in a report by the Business Infrastructure Commission, which said the country was burdened by over-specifying projects and setting unnecessary standards in procurement.  

“Critically, the public procurement process does not have the right skills or capabilities to handle large infrastructure contracts,” it said.

The commission, an independent industry group formed by the British Chambers of Commerce, also said government departments did not prioritise procurement as a key service.

Concerns about the public sector’s procurement skills were heightened because of the government’s ambitious £200 billion, five-year, National Infrastructure Plan, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in October.

“Increased levels of investment from both government and critically from the private sector must also be matched by a long-term infrastructure strategy,” said professor David Begg, chairman of the commission. “This has to include a focus on how we develop a skilled workforce to deliver these projects, an overhaul of how we procure and build new publicly funded infrastructure, and a planning system that is fit for purpose.”

For example, there are savings of £2 to 3 billion annually to be found through more efficient procurement, Begg said.

In March, the government promised to encourage greater innovation and allow for earlier and integrated supply chain involvement through improved competition and procurement processes, as part of the Infrastructure Cost Review: ImplementationPlan released by the Treasury.

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