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25 July 2013 | Adam Leach
The creation of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) will enable procurement teams across Whitehall to dedicate greater time and resources to the unique contracts that are vital to their departments, according to senior procurement directors.
The centralised procurement service announced by the Cabinet Office yesterday is expected to be up and running by the Autumn and will merge various arms of the Cabinet Office, including the Government Procurement Service.
With the CCS managing a broad range of common good and services, such as professional services and energy, procurement functions in other departments will be freed up to focus on critical areas.
Vincent Godfrey, director of procurement at the Ministry of Justice, told SM: “It does require us to reconfigure organisationally, but the important thing is it means we can focus on the unique priorities to this department. Things that are common will be dealt with by the CCS, leaving us to focus on contracts for things like prisons and rehabilitation.”
David Smith, commercial director at the Department for Work & Pensions, said the creation would not be “a watershed moment” but is a step in the right direction. He also highlighted the sharper focus it will enable his commercial team to take. “That level of resource would no longer be needed in government departments, so we will deploy it better in areas that are unique to us,” he told SM.
Colin Cram, managing director of consultancy Marc1 who advocated for a centralised body to carry out government buying when appearing before the Public Administration Select Committee, welcomed the announcement. While he was keen to see a central body manage an even broader range of spend categories, he is optimistic: “What I find encouraging is its terms of reference for common goods and services are going beyond the very narrow definition that Phillip Green (who bemoaned government buyers for paying too much for paperclips and staples) used.”
Employers’ organisation the CBI also welcomed the increased private sector influence. “Bringing the government’s buying power for common goods and services under one roof will help it get better value for money, as shown by the 10 per cent savings already made,” said Matthew Fell, CBI director for competitive markets. “Top of the new CCS’ to-do list should be beefing up its commercial skills. Appointing a private sector specialist to run the new department is a move in the right direction.”