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24 April 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The public spending watchdog for local government in Scotland has praised councils for the way they handle procurement but insists there is “room for better value”.
The Accounts Commission said that councils have made progress since the Scottish Government launched new initiatives in 2006 and councils established Scotland Excel, a body which pools purchasing power to buy more services collaboratively.
It said that Scotland's councils spend £5.4 billion a year on procurement, with savings of £71 million reported in 2012/13. The report found that this was through councils' use of collaborative contracts, which has increased by 80 per cent over the last three years, although it added councils could achieve more savings while “maintaining or improving service quality”.
The Accounts Commission said that making use of electronic payments systems, instead of paper, could yield a further £9 million but that progress has been slow in some councils. “Better performers have invested in qualified staff and systems to improve service quality and achieve savings,” the report said.
The Commission made several recommendations for council procurement staff, including engaging earlier with suppliers, making full use of national collaborative contracts and calculating procurement savings using a “consistent and transparent methodology”.
Accounts Commission chairman Douglas Sinclair said: "Councils need to secure maximum value for the money they spend as budgets continue to tighten. Better use of procurement can improve quality and bring benefits to their local communities.
"Some councils have done well by looking at all the options, investing in the right skills and systems and learning from each other. But there is scope to do a lot more and the pace of improvement needs to increase."