Hello, hello, hello. .. what’s going on in UK Police procurement?

Well, we’ve been critical of the state of procurement across the UK’s health system, but the Police Service is beginning to make the NHS look like a shining beacon of leading edge commercial practice...

1. The Surrey and West Midlands “partnership” outsourcing rumbles on, despite recent criticisms from the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, which said, “the committee is not convinced that Surrey and West Midlands police fully understand, or are fully able to articulate, the process they are undertaking”.  And has it been delayed or not? No-one seems quite sure. Amid protestations that “we’re not going to outsource frontline services” the Forces are unable to say what it is they might outsource, and the business case for a single partner still seems to rest on “we don’t want to run more than one procurement”. As we’ve said before, that’s an awful reason for choosing a strategy  (a single mega-prime contractor) which is so fraught with risk.  But the short-list of partners has also been announced...

2. The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) was “abolished” as part of the “Bonfire of the Quangos” shortly after the last election. Two years later – it lives! And the Police IT Company that is supposed to take on many of NPIA’s key functions, including some heavy IT procurement work, is delayed again and still isn’t in place. Anyone remember PTIO, the Police IT Organisation, that was abolished in favour of NPIA a few years back? Remember how PITO didn’t work too well (that’s why NPIA got set up)? My money is on this new body being just as wildly successful...

3. Lincolnshire Police have outsourced a whole raft of support functions to G4S. Now Cambridgeshire, Bedford and Hertfordshire Forces are all considering using the same contract to give similar services over to G4S. That could be done without any further competitive process, or without considering other options...  Whatever your views conceptually on outsourcing, giving G4S a de facto monopoly in this area would be a very bad procurement strategy. Let’s see some competition at least, if you must do it.

Nice Phone - shame about the business case

4. And finally, the Public Accounts Committee found that giving front-line police Blackberries hasn’t exactly been a great success. Which just goes to prove that technology in itself, without any consideration of change management or process re-design, doesn’t achieve an awful lot. And the Home Office had no clue how to assess the programme’s value for money either (which is a disgrace actually). This looks to me suspiciously like a “we’ve got some spare money in the budget – quick, spend it before year end or we’ll get cut next year” initiative...

Here is the "Police Oracle" website:

The Home Office provided £71 million between 2008 and 2010 under the Mobile Information Programme through the NPIA for forces to equip officers with mobile technology in the hope it would save money and cut bureaucracy – but it has saved only £600,000 so far. This sum was branded “woeful” by the Chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge, who pointed out it was just a one per cent return on the investment.

So... I’d love to hear what the capable procurement people in the service think about all this – and yes, I know there are some. Procurement hasn’t had a strong voice in many Forces however, and the position of NPIA (which has some good people)  must have been weakened by its “abolition”.

But it looks as if police procurement is going to be a source of stories for us for some time to come – good news for us as publishers, less good for us as taxpayers and citizens.

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Voices (3)

  1. On the Sidelines:

    The transition from PITO to NPIA was nothing more than a political device to appease ACPO – and from that point onwards the precious element of commercial independent challenge disappeared – and the results are now there for all to see. No Home Secretary has ever grasped the nettle of rationalisation – 43 Chief Constables run their patch as independent fiefdoms. Consider the parallel if Sainsbury’s store managers were given complete freedom to to do whatever they liked in their own storesterms of corporate identity, branding, merchandise etc.

    And again, dragging private sector resources in to run sensitive and complex policy and public expenditure projects never worked in the past – but they are still hell bent on doing it.

  2. Rob:

    With reference to PITO, I do recall an interaction that I had with a Chief Constable who asked me to arrive earlier than planned at PITO for a meeting, requesting that I should “sit in reception, listen and absorb…”.
    So, out of curiosity, I did. Afterwards, I provided the feedback that “I didn’t quite understand the request, because I didn’t hear a thing”. The Chief Constable replied, “quite, no-one ever calls PITO….”

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