On 23 January 2007, HM Treasury published a paper on Transforming Government Procurement, announcing a package of public procurement reforms designed to “equip the UK with the capability to deliver world class public services”.

The paper sets out the Government’s agenda for Delivering the Procurement Vision. This is to place procurement at the heart of Government policy and service delivery. Procedures are to be based on clear objectives which focus on value for money on a whole-life costing basis. Investment in skills, raising capability, better support for complex projects, more collaboration over buying and a stronger, more focussed OGC are all on the agenda. Key reforms proposed by the paper are:

  • Raising the level of procurement skills within Government departments: The Government Procurement Service (GPS) is to be transformed with the Chief Executive of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) as its head; the GPS is to be a professional procurement body providing support to Government departments and raising the status and standards of procurement across Government;
  • Raising capability within Government departments: Reviews of departmental procurement capability will be piloted in early 2007; clear procurement frameworks setting out standards and processes are to be established for each department in line with OGC best practice;
  • Better scrutiny and support for complex projects: A Major Projects Review Group will be established to conduct Gateway reviews at key stages with powers to block projects where issues require urgent attention;
  • Greater collaboration between Government departments in relation to commonly procured goods and services; the OGC will develop coherent strategies;
  • A stronger OGC will focus on its mission to transform Government procurement and its efficiency programme functions will be transferred to the Treasury; the OGC will become a “much smaller, higher-calibre organisation” which will exercise tough powers to set and audit procurement policy and the best practice framework; and
  • Suppliers will be able to complain to the OGC where Government departments are not following the standards of the procurement policy and best practice frameworks.

Comment

The public sector spends over £125 billion a year on procuring goods and services. Procurement is central to the delivery of key public services areas, such as health and education, policing and security. This welcome initiative signals the Government’s intent to become a better buyer and to challenge suppliers in turn to raise their game for the benefit of users of public services