UK Public Sector – Procurement News Headlines

ESPO go for eSourcing

The UK’s Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) has issued an OJEU notice for an end to end E-Sourcing solution.

“This solution will be used to fully manage the statutory procurement process, to maintain a comprehensive and clear audit trail and to provide a single sourcing portal for suppliers. The solution will be also capable of fulfilling the participating organisations varying additional requirements (together with ESPO’s own requirements) including e-tendering, e-vendor management, e-evaluation, e-auction and e-contract management functionality”.

It’s not actually clear whether ESPO, the largest of the regional buying organisations are going to use it themselves or whether this is primarily for local authorities within their region and customer base. But either way, it could be a significant contract and one that will no doubt see some strong competition.

 A storm of questions about the Met Office super-computer

Dave Orr, the redoubtable campaigner who has done more than anyone to raise the profile around the troubled SouthWest One outsourcing down in Somerset has now turned his attention to the Met Office. Should they have engaged a senior IBM executive as their acting COI? Was he appointed via a fair and open process?  Is this appropriate when the Met Office is going to be buying a hugely expensive super-computer in a couple of years time and IBM are a potential provider? Is this another example of the public sector getting too cosy with a major firm (don’t mention News International...)  So many questions, so few convincing answers. Read the  Minister's reply to Orr's questions,   and  Orr's response to that response here!

 Conflict of Interest embarrasses Cabinet Office

The UK Government consultation period on Open Standards  has been extended for a month and the results of a workshop disregarded after an apparent conflict of interest was discovered. A facilitator, Dr Andy Hopkirk, engaged to run an independent workshop by the Cabinet Office, was found to be also working for Microsoft. Here is the Cabinet Office Digital website:

However, at the time he was engaged to facilitate the Open Standards roundtable, while we were aware that he represented the National Computing Centre on the Microsoft Interoperability Executive Customer Council (along with 40 other CIOs/CTOs across the public and private sector who participate in a voluntary capacity) he did not declare the fact that he was advising Microsoft directly on the Open Standards consultation.

A little embarrassing, but well done to the Cabinet Office and Liam Maxwell for spotting it before things go too far, and for being open about the whole issue. Maxwell, the new government deputy CIO is well known as someone who is not a lover of the big IT firms, so this could also be seen as him flexing his muscles in that direction. More power to him. It’s also relevant to our previous comments, when we’ve urged care around “early engagement with suppliers”, which  Francis Maude (Cabinet Office Minister) has been promoting. It is a good idea BUT has to be handled with care. Point proven, we think.

 Public Accounts Committee publish report on cost reduction in central government

Departments have done quite well so far but don’t know whether their savings have led to cuts in services. The centre should do more to monitor progress. There’s no strategic efficiency planning in most government departments. Accounting Officers should be held accountable for cost reductions. There’s a conflict between more centralised procurement and the localism agenda.

I thought there might be something interesting to report on this but it is basically a re-statement of the recent National Audit Office report, stuff we knew already, and the blindingly obvious. It is also noticeably light on new insight or real solutions / actions. With stuff like this, you have to ask – will anything change because of this report? You can guess the answer here.

And just how do you intend to balance the procurement centralisation versus localism agenda, particularly in an environment where schools, hospitals, police forces are being made more and more independent? No idea? Thought not.

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