Auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas called for regular reviews of public bodies procurement strategies © Wales Audit Office
Auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas called for regular reviews of public bodies procurement strategies © Wales Audit Office

Welsh public procurement 'needs improvement'

2 November 2017

A report on public procurement in Wales has found there is “clear scope for improvement” on how authorities procure services at a national and local level.

The report, by the Wales Audit Office (WAO), found that during the 2015-16 financial year public bodies had spent around £6bn on the procurement of goods, services and works.

However, the report warned that the public bodies needed to improve their performance to ensure value for money.

It highlighted that these bodies had experienced “several notable procurement failures”, including experiencing problems recruiting and retaining qualified procurement personnel and not utilising technological developments that could make procurement processes more efficient.

It also pointed out that the public bodies had faced challenges in balancing potentially competing procurement priorities and responding to new policy.

The watchdog noted that £880m of the £6bn procurement spend in 2015-16 was through collaborative procurement, managed by three main Wales-based consortia and public buying organisations. 

The groups are the National Procurement Service (NPS), the Higher Education Purchasing Consortium and the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership.

The report set out a few recommendations, with auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas calling for regular reviews by public bodies of their own strategies and policies to ensure that they stay up to date with the changing landscape.

Thomas said local public bodies should take the inefficiencies into account during reviews and try to reduce wasted spending where possible.

“Procurement is one of the key ways in which public bodies need to be able to demonstrate that they are securing value for money,” he said.

“Our findings are clear: while public bodies face a range of challenges in a changing procurement landscape, they can do more to strengthen their procurement arrangements and recent examples highlight the financial and reputational risks of getting procurement wrong.”

The report also recommended that the national governance arrangements around public procurement should be strengthened as the current National Procurement Board (NPB) had “limited effectiveness”.

It said public bodies should join the NPB, which the Welsh Government plans to merge with the NPS board.

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