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TACKLING THE IMPROVEMENT OF PUBLIC SECTOR PROCUREMENT

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Top civil servants and senior business leaders will be questioned as part of a fundamental review covering all aspe...
Top civil servants and senior business leaders will be questioned as part of a fundamental review covering all aspects of how central government departments spend£12bn a year on goods and services, Peter Gershon, the head of the review, announced today.

Mr Gershon, managing director of Marconi Electronic Systems, was commissioned last month to bring his experience in major private sector companies together with senior civil service management to identify efficiency, modernisation and competitiveness gains in central government procurement. The review complements the government's comprehensive spending review and will help Departments identify and deliver savings and quality gains to meet their Public Service Agreements, which will be launched later this week.

Setting out how he intends to tackle this important task, Mr Gershon said:

'I have been asked to report my initial findings to the prime minister early next year, with a final report during March. This is a tight schedule, but I am determined to press ahead to make sure that

government departments are able to start taking the undoubted savings and quality improvements which can be found as early as possible.

'My report will contain recommendations for the future roles and relationships within central government procurement functions. The review will be conducted in two phases, gathering information from public and private sector organisations with ideas and expertise to contribute, followed by analysis of these views and the underpinning information, and then produce recommendations.

'In many areas of commerce the government is the biggest customer in the UK. I intend to address ways in which it can secure best value for public money as the private sector does. This will involve making use of the most efficient models in the UK and abroad and the latest technology, including electronic commerce. I shall look at ways in which government departments collectively can deal with suppliers to get the best possible deal for the tax payer from this large amount of public money.

'I shall visit a number of departments and key supply side executives in the search to win this valuable prize. Given the£12bn spending by civil central government departments, efficiency gains of only 5% would release£600m every year. This is a prize which must be grasped if the comprehensive spending review is to produce in full the benefits which modern management approaches offer.

'I urge any organisation that is a supplier to the civil departments of central government to provide me with a one or two page submission setting out views on how better value for money and efficiency gains can be obtained through changes to current departmental approaches to procurement.'

NOTES

1. The appointment of Peter Gershon to head the current review was announced by the paymaster general, Geoffrey Robinson, and cabinet office parliamentary secretary Peter Kilfoyle on 17 November.

2. The earlier comprehensive spending review paper'Efficiency in Civil Government Procurement', published in July 1998, identified the need to take advantage of electronic trading, collaboration between departments and coordination of supplier relations. The Gershon Review will examine whether the current organisation of procurement practice supports this and what improvements can be made to deliver these objectives.

3. The Gershon Review covers central civil procurement only. Its terms of reference are :

'To review civil procurement in government in the light of the government's objectives on efficiency, modernisation and competitiveness in the short and medium term and to report within three months'.

4. Peter Gershon, currently MD Marconi Electronic Systems, was formerly MD GPT and before that, MD STC Telecom and has held senior positions in the computing industry. Submissions to Mr Gershon should be sent to him at gershon.review@hm-treasury.gov.uk, or:

c/o HM Treasury

Room 202/203

Allington Towers

19 Allington Street

London

SW1E 5EB

5. The chief secretary to the treasury, Stephen Byers, will make a statement and publish a White Paper on public service agreements later this week.

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