June 2010 - Local Procurement
May has been a busy month of putting in tender proposals: in the current environment there seem to be more people chasing fewer potential pieces of work.
But doing this exposes some of the inefficiencies of the public sector procurement system. For work which is openly tendered there's all that tedious form-filling and providing financial information and policies - do they actually read it when it's been provided, I wonder?
The real scandal, though, are the things which go to three quotes. That accounts for a fair percentage of goods procured by local authorities - and most of them have no control over how the person commissioning the work decides on who to send the invitations to (who did it last time? someone they met in the pub?). It's difficult to imagine a private sector organisation looking to cut costs which would allow more than a quarter of purchases to be done without any intervention by a professional buyer or, indeed, any quality control, but that's just what happens in most of the Local Authorities in the North East. A shining light against this picture is Sunderland City Council which has just launched Buy Sunderland First which makes sure that at least two quotes for anything under £75k come from local firms. More importantly it also makes sure that the system is transparent and is operated through the procurement department so there's a some chance of operating a quality assurance system.
When are other North East Councils going to follow this example?