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Government procurement officials want centralised buying and full transparency of deals with suppliers

Out-Law News | 28 Mar 2013 | 2:53 pm | 1 min. read

Senior officials within Government responsible for procurement have said that Government purchasing should be centralised and that all the information relating to deals with suppliers should be made fully transparent, according to reports.

The Cabinet Office's chief procurement officer Bill Crothers, his deputy Sally Collier and Cabinet Office chief operating officer Stephen Kelly backed greater transparency over Government contracts whilst giving evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) earlier this week, according to reports by the Channel and the Guardian.

Crothers said that there has been a "habit, a culture, an established norm" within Government where some departments have "primacy" and have "the total relationship" with a supplier, according to the the Channel's report. This, he said, had created "tension" between departments.

Kelly said that a centralised procurement scheme would instead "offer much better value for the taxpayer, better transparency, better data, better negotiating power, better competition", according to the Guardian's report. Suppliers would be less able to receive "supernormal profits" from the deals as a result, he added.

Often commercial information that suppliers gave Government departments in confidence is "redacted", Collier told the PASC, according to the Channel's report. However, Crothers said that making such information openly available could ultimately help drive down costs. "Perfect competition requires perfect information. In theory this moves toward perfect information; it would help competition," he said.

Currently around half of the Government's outlay on procurements is shared between 50 and 100 suppliers, Crothers said, according to the Guardian. "Often the performance is worse" from those bigger suppliers than what smaller firms provide, he said.

The Cabinet Office previously outlined plans to increase the level of SMEs winning Government contracts and has subsequently reported the majority of the money it has paid out through its 'G-Cloud' frameworks for the provision of IT services had gone to SME firms