Welsh public sector must boost procurement skills

19 July 2012

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19 July 2012 | Kamalpreet Badasha

A lack of qualified procurement professionals is holding back the progress of Welsh public procurement.

A policy review, Maximising the impact of Welsh procurement policy, carried out by John McClelland – who has carried out a similar review in Scotland - was commissioned by finance minister Jane Hutt in February.

The review, published yesterday, looked at the impact of Welsh purchasing policy, which aims to increase the efficiency of the Welsh government’s annual spend of £4.3 billion.

It highlighted there was a shortfall in staffing levels and a low number of qualified procurement professionals, which resulted in inefficient spending. In a debate in the Welsh Assembly yesterday, Labour assembly member Julie James said the procurement profession needed a culture change moving from “backroom to the boardroom”.

The study also found implementation of procurement policy varied widely across the public sector. Spending with Welsh companies ranged from 70 per cent at one authority to 37.9 per cent at another. And the use of collaborative contracts also varied. The health service reported using them for a total of 63.4 per cent of its contracts while use by local government was estimated at using it for only 11 per cent.

Its 28 recommendations included developing a single ‘policy and practices’ document, increasing the number of collaborative contracts and addressing the procurement skills shortage. The review recommended the Welsh government considered investing in the establishment of a new national procurement service, as well as reviewing the role of Value Wales.

“This recent progress has put public procurement in Wales in a better position now – relative to other parts of the UK – compared to its position of several years ago. However there is still opportunity to make further progress,” said McClelland in a statement.

“We need to make sure that every pound spent gets the best value for money for Welsh businesses and individuals,” said Hutt. "It’s encouraging that [McClelland] has recognised the significant progress we have made in Wales in improving public procurement. We will now consider John’s recommendations carefully to ensure that we respond across the public sector in the most effective way."

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