Public procurement reform is too slow, industry warns

12 November 2012

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12 November 2012 | Adam Leach

Reforms to public sector procurement are heading in the right direction but the speed at which they are progressing is too slow, according to a survey conducted by the CBI.

Buying a brighter future published today, found from a policy perspective the UK government’s reform agenda on public procurement receives a strong endorsement. But its ability to implement the reforms and bring about change appears to be in doubt.

The survey, which is based on the response of nearly 100 business leaders representing a broad spectrum of UK industry, asked respondents to rate progress on a number of aspects of procurement out of 10. On policy, the government was supported, scoring eight out of 10, but on speeding up change to procurement, it scored just four out of 10. And it scored even lower on – just three out of 10 - for its progress in simplifying the procurement process.

Keith Craven, CEO at Balfour Beatty Services and chairman of the CBI’s procurement panel, said in a statement: “The government has the right policy solutions, but as suppliers, we are yet to feel the changes on the ground. Procurement reform needs to be part of a larger conversation about industrial policy and public service reform where industry wants to play its part.”

The survey results, presented in the form of a scorecard, gave the government separate grades for policy and implementation. Across the board, it received higher scores for policy than for implementation. Its highest scores on the policy side were for providing better information about future opportunities and the plan to improve commercial skills in the public sector, scoring nine out of 10 for both. But when it comes to implementation of these ideas, the government scored seven out of 10 and six out of 10 respectively.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Our unprecedented reforms have centralised deals and removed unnecessary bureaucracy. We are driving faster procurements using LEAN principles, advertising new contracts online and are publishing pipelines of future opportunities. We welcome the CBI's scrutiny on this important issue and are pleased they have recognised our strong progress. But we agree with the CBI, that's there is much more to do."

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