Ambitious targets

17 June 2010
Handily for those of us who like to keep tabs on public sector procurement, the Cabinet Office Structural Reform Plan, published this week, contains a number of deadlines for the shake-up of government purchasing. Let’s take a look at some of these milestones (partly so we can come back to see if they have been met). I’ll do my best to cut through the jargon… Under “ICT strategy” is a pledge to create a new IT procurement process, with the Office of Government Commerce developing an approach that will cut costs, be quicker and allow more use of SMEs by March 2011. Before this, guidance will be published by August 2010 to ensure no IT contract costs more than £100 million. A central renegotiation of large IT contracts to cut costs is also promised by December 2011. As part of “Driving efficiency in government operations”, central procurement of commodity products will be introduced by December 2010, with a list of commodities identified and the threshold for items to be included drawn up this month. Departments will be informed and the whole thing rolled out by March 2011. In addition, key contracts will be renegotiated by December 2010, with the list identified by September 2010 and savings realised by March 2011. Plans to publish all government contracts over £10,000 online will happen by September 2010. All government spending data will be on the new COINS website by November 2010. And details of all new central government contracts will be published by January 2011 (I’m not sure this is as radical as Peter suggests on his blog as it does refer to the £25,000 figure in the milestones underneath). An efficiency scorecard will be published for all “main” government departments by January 2011. As part of “Transparency”, councils will have to put any spending above £500 online, and publish all their contracts and tenders in full – although no specific deadline is set for this. And finally, included in “Big society” is a pledge to reform the public commissioning process and provide greater equality for the voluntary sector by December 2010. What strikes me about all this is how soon all these will be taking place in a sector not well known for its speed or dynamism. It is a very ambitious timetable, which is to be applauded, but I remain sceptical about how many of these will meet their target date.
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