Bonkers purchasing system comes to an end

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SOME days, my job as Minister for the Cabinet Office is deeply, deeply satisfying. One such occasion was last Friday when I was able to announce something that I’ve been working on since being appointed to the role.

I was finally able to explain how changes to the way government departments purchase things like stationery and other office services, will, by 2015, save our economy some £3bn each and every year.

The way government departments have previously been procuring items and services has led to them wasting millions each year. With each department negotiating and managing their own contracts, crazy situations were established whereby £350 and £2,000 were paid by different departments and agencies - for the same laptop.

Another terrifying example is that different departments were paying between £85 and £240 for the same printer cartridge – from the same company!

That is bonkers and it really is deeply satisfying to put an end to it. Although it’s a complicated situation, with huge figures involved, across multiple departments, the idea behind the changes is straightforward: rather than individual departments signing poor value contracts, we’ve established a central team – Government Procurement – to contract goods and services for government as a whole.

As I said before, this will eventually save £3bn each year – a quarter of all spending on these essential items. That’s on top of £1bn we’ve already saved simply by spending more efficiently on discretionary goods and services.

It’s great to think of all that previously-wasted taxpayers’ money being saved – it will do a lot of good in coming years when, just as with household budgets, every pound really does count.

There’s more good news tied into this package: we’ve also reinforced our commitment to buying more services and products from small and medium sized businesses. In fact, each government department has had to lay out in an action plan, exactly how it will contribute to our goal of doing 25 per cent of business with smaller companies.

There will be a much greater use of the ‘open’ procurement procedure – which will help smaller companies compete with larger, even global, competitors.

I’d urge any local business people who think their company may have something to offer to have a look on the Cabinet Office website for more information on how to get involved.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham