It is interesting that the second phase of the UK Government’s consultation process around 21st Century Policing moves on to the subject of procurement. Following Phillip Green’s articles in the paper this morning reporting the significant waste in public sector spending resulting from a lack of intelligent bulk buying, you end up agreeing that local buying is not the way to gain financial benefit as you would in a large multinational. However, those on the other side of the argument will state that “one size does not fit all” and that centralisation of buying tends to discriminate against small local companies that often provide a better quality product at cheaper cost.
So where is the happy medium in this? The recent consultation paper around police buying seems to try and find the middle position, with the introduction of “Procurement Frameworks” utilising the current OGC frameworks. This approach seems fine in principal, but again there are downsides. Firstly, these current large scale frameworks are notoriously difficult to get on to, with most dominated by the larger System Integrator companies, leaving many current suppliers off the radar. Secondly, if you are a small sized company, you can operate through a framework company to provide your products and services, but there is an administrative mark up by the Framework company, which necessarily reduces value for money for the buyer. It is also apparent that due to the value of some of the contracts that go through Frameworks, some of those Framework suppliers find that they do not make enough mark up (which is capped) to make it worth their while.
So what is the solution? Well, Frameworks are a good way of tackling the issue, but at the same time they need to be more open to the types of products and services which the police need and use. There also needs to be a better education programme for Procurement Departments across the country about what options they have on their procurement menu. So many times have we seen that procurement departments have no idea what is available from the Frameworks that are currently in place.
So in principle, Frameworks are the answer, but not in their current form……