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25 October 2012 | Anna Reynolds
The Procurement Reform Bill is key to Scotland’s recovery and “sets the pace in procurement innovation”, according to director of Scottish procurement Alastair Merrill.
Speaking to SM at the Procurex conference in Glasgow, Merill said: “This is the first time a UK government has used primary legislation to shape procurement policy. Scotland is setting the pace in procurement innovation and other governments are recognising this.”
The Bill – planned to be introduced to Parliament in spring 2013 – covers areas such as improving access to public sector contracts for SMEs, collaborating with businesses to share ideas, drive cost savings and efficiency, and embedding sustainable procurement initiatives.
Merrill said the key driver behind promoting procurement reform in Scotland lies with the past six years of strong ministerial leadership and cross party support.
He added that the size and scale of Scotland makes it possible for new procurement practices to be adopted: “There is frequent interaction across networks in the Scottish procurement community, which means that policy can be heard at a strategic level. There is a real sense of common ownership of the agenda.”
However he warned: “Public procurement in Scotland still has an image problem and falls short of the standards we know we can achieve. There are still too many instances of poor practice, of people being risk averse rather than risk pragmatic. There is still a huge amount to do.”
Asked what impact independence would have on public sector procurement, Merrill said: “Procurement is already a devolved function in Scotland and has a distinct agenda that will continue regardless of any change. We already run procurement in Scotland for the interests of Scotland so it would be an issue of scale rather than direction, on areas of government business such as defence and tax.”
Meanwhile, in her opening address to the conference, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon encouraged the sector to use procurement spending creatively, as a means to developing jobs and accelerating local community benefits. She also urged purchasers to ensure they use the standardised procurement systems to avoid falling foul of the rules.