Welsh public sector contracts are not seen as “prestigious and reliable” by food suppliers, a group of National Assembly members (AMs) has said.
In a report, the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee said the National Procurement Service (NPS) has consistently overestimated how much the public sector is likely to spend with suppliers through its frameworks and needs to take action to restore faith with the sector.
The authors noted an inability on the part of public sector buyers to build long-term relationships with suppliers and producers, contributing to a lack of trust, and while public contracts were considered prestigious and reliable in many markets this was not the case in Wales.
It called for the Assembly to develop an “overarching food strategy which sees food as an investment in the lives of people in Wales”, supported by cost assessments that accommodate both central and local procurement approaches.
The report also said the Welsh Government needed to consider how it could support public organisations to continue to improve procurement practices and it should release more information on public sector food spend, potentially through biennial reports.
“For the foreseeable future it appears that public organisations will continue to spend significant amounts of public money outside NPS frameworks,” the report said.
On the subject of Europe, the report said the extent to which EU regulations have constrained procurement practice in the past had been exaggerated “over many years”. AMs said it was clear from other European countries that the system did not inhibit good public sector food procurement.
It said Brexit would pose challenges as well as bringing opportunities and that a new post-Brexit food strategy was needed.
Speaking to the BBC, Mike Hedges, chair of the committee, said: “More must be done to restore faith and ensure tenders are attractive enough for businesses to bid for them.
“As a starting point, we must make the most of the £74m a year being spent by the public sector so we can improve health, wellbeing and social outcomes.”
The report estimated of the £74.4m spent per year on food and drink by the Welsh public sector, £47.2m, or 63%, is spent with Welsh suppliers.
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