Readers add their views on Government’s procurement performance

Some of our regular readers have commented or spoken to me about our review last week of the Government's first year procurement performance. (Here is the last of the three posts).

Neil Hind and Paul Smith pointed out that there is still a lot of good work going on in the local government sector - I agree.

Re: your comment on RIEPs. Some good news is that a number of regions will continue with regional procurement work using either unspent fundings or council contributions. In the NW a very light regional project will continue but the majority of councils are contributing in some fashion to their sub-regional hubs in AGMA, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Christine Morton quite rightly asked 'what about Education'?

Honest answer- I don't know. The growth of Free Schools and Academies may lead to more disaggregation of spend, but it is probably too early to tell. Universities - I hear good things about consortia such as the London Universities Purchasing Consortium, but I don't know enough really about how the sector generally is responding to the challenges it faces. Anyone like to comment?

Another friend, who was till recently a senior civil servant, took me to task. How on earth, he said, could I not have commented on the paralysis in Whitehall brought about by the sign-off procedures introduced by Cabinet Office, in both the projects / programmes space, and procurement?

Now we counted 'demand managament' as a positive in our review, but this individual's feeling is that there are some major issues; for a start, civil servants don't understand the process, and there are some serious effects on morale at top levels in the service.   And some good initiatives that would actually save money just aren't happening. "It isn't sustainable in the medium term" is the view.

I guess the question is whether the dramatic cost reduction that the strong demand management brought about is worth this level of pain? Or will we start seeing more stories about things just not happening, and the wheels falling off day to day delivery of services and initiatives? Or will Cabinet Office, having got a pretty tight grip on things, start relaxing it a little to enable the wheels to turn effectively?

Questions for year 2 of the coalition I think.

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