'Get stakeholders on board to introduce e-procurement'

2 February 2015

Getting cross-functional internal support was key to Cardiff City Council's successful introduction of an award-winning dynamic purchasing system (DPS) for school transport, one of the council’s procurement bosses has said.

Christopher McLellan, senior category manager for commissioning and procurement, said getting early backing from internal stakeholders meant it was possible to introduce the system, which saved the council an estimated £588,000 annually, in less than a year.

The DPS and e-auction programme for school transport was implemented through e-procurement provider Proactis, which named the council winners of their best public sector procurement project for 2014.

The council, which spends around £7 million a year on school transport, had previously sourced suppliers through a typical four-year public sector framework.

But, McLellan said: “We learnt that there was probably a bit of fat on our previous contract.”

The council runs hundreds of different school transport routes a year, ranging from coaches to minibuses to taxis. Routes frequently change over the course of a year.

“We were missing an opportunity for SME engagement,” McLellan said. “There were constant new entrants to the marketplace – particularly new taxi consortia that wanted to bid for council business."

But the four year duration of the previous framework meant the council was closing the door on new SMEs entering the marketplace once the initial tender had taken place.

Under the new system, entrants had to satisfy safety and quality requirements to be accepted into the DPS framework. Once they were on it individual contracts were awarded through an e-auction system, which made the selection according to price. Auctions could take place at any time, enabling many more suppliers to bid.

While planning the new system, members of the procurement team visited Cornwall Council, which had pioneered a similar scheme, and were accompanied by members of the legal team and the department responsible for school transport, who became a champion for the project.

“I'd say it's very important to get all the functions on board from the very beginning because without that support in the public sector it takes a long time to get things pushed through,” said McLellan.

He also advises other authorities considering a similar approach to bear in mind this may be the first time many bidders have used e-auctions and to provide plenty of training.

“We’ve held supplier engagement days. A government-funded forum for supply development called Business Wales has put on a lot of events at local hotels for suppliers,” he added.

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