William Eichler 17 October 2017

Public procurement in Wales needs ‘improvement’, auditors say

There is ‘clear scope for improvement’ in procurement arrangements at the local level in Wales, auditors find.

A report from the Wales Audit Office (WAO) looking at the year 2015-16 has found public bodies spent around £6bn through procurement on a range of goods, services and works.

However, it warned they needed to improve their performance to ensure value for money.

Local public bodies in particular have experienced ‘several notable procurement failures’, the auditors discovered.

They noted these bodies were experiencing problems recruiting and retaining qualified procurement personnel, and found they were not utilising technological developments that could make procurement processes more efficient.

The WAO’s report said the national governance arrangements around public procurement should also be ‘strengthened’. It described the national procurement board as ‘having limited effectiveness’.

Around £880m of procurement spend in 2015-16 was through collaborative procurement, managed by the three main Wales-based consortia and public buying organisations.

While these organisations are reporting financial savings and other benefits, said the report, public bodies have mixed views on their effectiveness.

The auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas recommended a regular review by public bodies of their procurement strategies and polices to ensure that these stay up to date with the changing landscape.

He also recommended the Welsh government explore the impact of differential pay for procurement staff across different sectors and any potential solutions.

‘Procurement is one of the key ways in which public bodies need to be able to demonstrate that they are securing value for money,’ said auditor general, Huw Vaughan Thomas.

‘Our findings are clear: while public bodies face a range of challenges in a changing procurement landscape, they can do more to strengthen their procurement arrangements and recent examples highlight the financial and reputational risks of getting procurement wrong.’

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