A waste of collaborative buying expertise

24 November 2010
Why, when government is touting centralisation as the answer to all its spending ills, is it disbanding collaborative buying groups? Firebuy has gone. The UK’s nine Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPs) are on the way out. At least one NHS joint buying hub has already been given the chop. And other such bodies, such as the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), are under review. Things are always being changed in the public sector – that’s a given. And nobody would argue there wasn’t room for change, but the government says the change it wants is more centralisation and collaboration: so why wipe out so many bodies that do just that? And what’s to replace them that’s so much better? Today, the Cabinet Office has been delighted to announce it has more details of how much it spends with certain suppliers – having published information about deals over £25,000 online on Friday. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “We found the eventual aggregated spend with one company tended to be 20 times more than what we thought.” So it recognises that having all such information in one place is vital to negotiate better deals. Again, it leads me to ask, why get rid of the central bodies that hold that information, or have at least made a start on all this work, some of which have won awards and national recognition for their progress? Improve them or amalgamate them if they‘re not working. But to just disband them and lose all that data and intellectual property knowledge is a real waste.
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