Press Release

Committee calls for review of current procurement structures

Session: 2013/2014

Date: Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Reference: PAC 03/13/14

An Assembly report on collaborative procurement, published today by the Public Accounts Committee, has called for a review of the current procurement structures. Local public procurement accounts for around £2,700,000,000 (£2.7 billion) of expenditure each year.

Currently, procurement is governed by the Procurement Board, which was created in 2002 and is responsible to the Executive and accountable to the Assembly. The Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) within the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) and seven Centres of Procurement Expertise (CoPEs) which encompass Roads Service, NI Water, Translink, Health Estates, Procurement and Logistics Service (for Health), Education and Library Boards, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive undertake procurements and report to this Board.

The Committee found that the current structures are not creating enough opportunities for more efficient procurement. One issue, highlighted in the report, is the lack of a joined up collaborative strategy.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Michaela Boyle MLA said: "The current procurement arrangements have been in place for over a decade. A number of problems have been highlighted.

"We are concerned that current processes do not include a fully developed collaborative procurement strategy, something that everyone agrees provides the best outcomes.

"It is also unacceptable that DFP and the wider public sector do not have ready access to or share the basic management information necessary to facilitate effective collaboration.

"As well, we found that CPD is not recording sufficient information that would allow for more robust collaboration between different CoPEs. We are also concerned that different CoPEs are paying varying prices for common goods and services and there is little of price benchmarking or standardisation of specifications.

"In light of this, the Committee believes that it would be beneficial to review the current procurement structures to improve both procedures and outcomes."


Notes to Editors:

Other findings from the Report include:

  • that the Department of Finance and Personnel has set unambitious collaborative procurement savings targets;
  • evidence of arm’s length bodies paying several times more than the lowest prices for common goods like laptops and computer monitors;
  • a recognition that there could be potential tensions between promoting collaborative procurement and supporting the development of SMEs and micro-businesses (those with fewer than ten employees). The Committee recommends that CPD and the other CoPEs ensure that these businesses are not unfairly disadvantaged by increased collaboration.

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