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National Assembly Committee demands results from new National Procurement Service

A National Assembly Committee wants to see evidence of savings and value for money with the introduction of the Welsh Government’s new National Procurement Service.

During its inquiry into the procurement and management of consultancy services the Public Accounts Committee found that Welsh public bodies had reduced spending on external consultants. Figures showed a significant fall across the public sector from £173 million in 2007-08 down to £133 million in 2010-11.

The Welsh Government reduced its spend on consultants from £52 million to £42 million over the same period.

The Committee welcomed these reductions but also found that there was a lack of evidence from many public bodies to demonstrate that they were achieving value for money in their arrangements for planning, obtaining and managing consultancy services.

The Committee was concerned at such failures at a time of tight financial constraints for the public sector.

The Welsh Government has set up a National Procurement Service (NPS) which will launch in November. Its brief is to:

“…set up and manage contracts for common and repetitive spend across the public sector in Wales. It will reduce expenditure; eliminating duplication, developing a sustainable procurement model and increasing efficiency.”

The Public Accounts Committee wants to see an annual report on the impact of the NPS and close monitoring arrangements to ensure it is delivering the savings expected of it.

“Consultants have an important role to play in government,” said Darren Millar AM, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

“When managed effectively, they can offer fresh perspectives on issues and provide the skills to dynamically respond to emerging challenges.

“An over-reliance on consultants can represent very poor value for public money and impede an organisation from developing its own staff.

“In recognising that consultancy costs are falling across the public sector in Wales the Committee is still concerned at the difficulty public bodies had in demonstrating value for the money they did spend.

“This is why we want to see results form the National Procurement Service, with an annual report proving clearly what savings have been made and the positive impact the NPS is having.”

The Committee makes 12 recommendations in its report including:

  • That the Welsh Government publishes annually a report on the impact of the National Procurement Service in improving procurement practices and generating procurement savings, to include analysis of its impact in challenging and managing demand for the use of consultancy services across the Public Sector;

  • That the Welsh Government works with potential users of the National Procurement Service, and puts in place robust monitoring arrangements to ensure that the potential savings expected from the Service are delivered; and,

  • That the Welsh Government ensures that a specific objective of the National Procurement Service is to maximise the benefits of public expenditure in the private sector in Wales, as part of its broader objectives of maximising value for public money.

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