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26 March 2013 | Adam Leach
Police forces must secure agreement on “mundane specifications” such as the number of pockets on uniforms if they are to deliver the required savings from collaborative procurement.
Police procurement, a report published today by the National Audit Office (NAO), identified a number of barriers that could put the ability of the 43 police forces in England and Wales to deliver £474 million savings through better procurement by 2014-15 in jeopardy. In particular, the report cited the failure by forces to agree on common service standards and specifications.
“A common theme from many interviews with police force staff was that securing agreement even on relatively mundane items, such as the number of pockets on uniforms, can be difficult. If forces cannot agree on such areas, meaningful collaboration will not be feasible,” the report said.
The NAO said if the police forces could effectively collaborate on uniform procurement and replicate the savings delivered by the prison service in 2008 when it moved to a single detailed specification, it could deliver savings of 30 per cent. This, the spending watchdog said, would save around £2.6 million from current expenditure of £8 million.
Other barriers to collaboration identified by the independent audit body included forces being unwilling to break existing contracts for goods and services to buy off a separate framework, and forces’ participation in existing collaborative purchasing arrangements, regionally or locally.
Responding to the report, policing and crime minister Damian Green said: "The police are already required to buy vehicles, body armour and some IT through national agreements and we estimate forces will have saved £110 million by March 2013 through better procurement. We recognise there is more that can be done. That is why we are implementing a central online marketplace for the police to buy goods and services, saving money by purchasing together and from standard catalogues.”