Inquiry ‘disheartened and dismayed’ by police procurement

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
26 November 2013

An Independent Police Commission report into the future of UK policing has recommended the development of a national procurement strategy that could save more than £62 million over the next three years.

The report said the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Home Office (HO) should jointly coordinate purchasing of IT, non-IT consumables and forensic services.

The commission, chaired by the former Metropolitan police chief Lord Stevens, said forces could save an estimated £4.8 million over the next three years across five common equipment items if they paid the average of the five lowest prices paid. Over the same period they could save £7.8 million by standardising uniforms.

Similarly, if 80 per cent of items were bought through the existing National Police Procurement Hub, rather than the 2 per cent at present, there are potential benefits of more than £50 million.

The report said: “The commission is disheartened and dismayed by the recurring criticisms of the police service's inability to rationalise its procurement of IT and non-IT consumables and is greatly exercised by problems besetting the forensic science services. The continued failure to manage procurement is not only costly in economic terms and wasteful of human effort but it potentially compromises the efficiency and effectiveness of investigation and other policing tasks.”

The report also cautions against the outsourcing of police functions to the private sector.

“Without serious consideration being given to the limits of what can be outsourced in policing, and principles to guide whatever outsourcing is to take place, there is a clear risk of ad hoc, unprincipled outsourcing being unleashed,” said the report.

The report also said the structure of 43 forces “appears to be dysfunctional” and suggested three options for the future involving “locally negotiated mergers and collaboration agreements”, “regionalisation” and a “national police service”. The system of Police and Crime Commissioners is referred to as the “spectre of a failed experiment”.

Minister of state for policing and criminal justice Damian Green said: "We have stripped away targets and red tape to free police from deskbound jobs; we have installed the National Crime Agency to take on organised crime; we have installed a College of Policing to professionalise policing; we have modernised outmoded pay and conditions; and we have introduced a newly reinforced ethical framework to ensure police conduct is on an equal footing to cutting crime."

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