Defra procurement chief sees big R&D savings

13 October 2011

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13 October 2011 | Angeline Albert

The head of procurement at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) expects to make significant savings from government grants during the next 12 months.

Andrew Croston, the head of procurement and commercial at Defra, has saved £28 million on research and development (R&D) spend already, but believes the opportunities to make efficiencies on the hundreds of millions of pounds awarded by the department for research is huge.

“The R&D process is not subject to the usual OJEU process. I believe there are great savings to be made in this area,” he told SM.

Croston is responsible for £1.2 billion of expenditure on corporate services, emergency preparedness and R&D at DEFRA. A recent review of £300 million of this spend has seen specifications changed, sourcing improved and waste eliminated.

With Defra’s 95 arms-length bodies reduced to 37, more than 20 different procurement teams have been consolidated into two procurement hubs. An option for the future under consideration, but has not yet been formally decided, is to have three procurement hubs. One, led by the Environment Agency, would be responsible for procurement for flood, sea and river defences. Another, led by Natural England, would purchase environmental services. And the third, run by Defra, would buy corporate services, common goods, R&D and services to deal with emergency outbreaks.

The introduction of electronic sourcing, tendering and paperless contract management has cut procurement costs from £6.8 million to £3.8 million a year. “I have a savings target of 10 per cent and we are on target to deliver that,” he said.

Defra expects to save a third by reducing the portfolio of the 650 buildings. “Our approach will include moving staff to under-utilised buildings where necessary, sell leases and premises,” he said.

Croston was shortlisted for the CIPS Procurement and Supply Chain Professional of the Year prize at this year’s CIPS SM Awards.

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