MPs should make use of procurement know-how

8 July 2011

10 July 2011 | Adam Leach

More needs to be done to ensure MPs use central procurement deals and expertise to get value for money from their expenses, a report has found.

The National AuditOffice (NAO) review, published this week, looked into the effectiveness of an expenses scheme brought in in 2009 following the parliamentary expenses scandal. The overhauled system requires MPs to provide evidence for each claim, to categorise specific types of expense and outlines what they can claim money back for. The Independent ParliamentaryStandards Authority (IPSA) was created in 2009 to ensure the scheme was adhered to, but the NAO report said it was failing to “give sufficient importance to supporting MPs' spending in a cost-effective way”.

Despite MPs making repeated calls for government departments to save public money by taking advantage of centralised purchasing power, members are failing to reap similar benefits for goods and services they all buy, such as travel, furniture, stationery and staff.

The NAO found that IPSA has failed to follow the lead set by a number of government departments that have set up centralised purchasing to cut costs. It said IPSA had decided against doing this because MPs wanted “a high degree of flexibility to procure goods and services wherever they wish”. It also found advice on purchasing services was not given to MPs because IPSA feared it would create a ‘John Lewis List’ culture, where members requested items they didn’t need simply because others were doing so.

NAO head Amyas Morse, said: “The [expenses] scheme does not give enough importance to helping MPs spend in a cost-effective way. They are not required to make use of the few existing centralised procurement mechanisms. Moreover, IPSA does not normally provide advice to MPs, beyond the rules of the scheme, on what would represent cost-effective procurement, even following explicit requests.”

An IPSA spokesman said the organisation would look at the recommendations.

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