Procurement UK Discussion Paper – April 2013

Procurement UK, formed to drive forward the procurement agenda in higher education, publishes its initial Discussion Paper for review and comment. The Diamond Report stressed the need to place procurement at the heart of strategies to deliver efficiencies and better value for money in higher education, both at the institutional and sector level. In response, Procurement UK has been established to drive forward the procurement agenda and to co-ordinate the range of activities being carried out by different organisations.

The Procurement UK board had its first meeting in February 2013,  chaired by Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton. To support the meeting, John Lakin, consultant and adviser to the Diamond Report, was invited to prepare a discussion paper to set out a possible future strategy. The paper was approved at the meeting as the basis for the future agenda of Procurement UK and has now been revised to incorporate comments from the members of the board.

The paper sets out the objectives of Procurement UK and its role in relation to other bodies such as the funding councils and the procurement consortia, and its role in key developments such as the establishment of the Higher Education Procurement Academy and the roll out of procurement maturity assessment services. The paper also endorses the collaborative procurement target of 30% for non-pay spend and suggests a basket of other measures for tracking progress.

A key task now will be to raise the profile of procurement in the sector so that it is genuinely seen as a strategic asset. In part this is about changing the mindsets and attitudes of leaders in the sector, but it is also about procurement managers and staff taking proactive steps to raise their skills and confidence. There is also a need for greater transparency of information and for more extensive benchmarking of HE contracts and frameworks against their equivalents in the wider public sector, to ensure value for money.

“This paper sets out a clear set of goals and I encourage you to engage with Procurement UK to raise the flag for procurement in our universities,” says Nick Petford.