Recent Whitehall reporting has been focused on the departure of John Collington, the Government’s CPO, who according to the Cabinet Office spin doctors has been responsible for, amongst other things, reducing central government procurement spend from £51B to £45B. Quite how they know this is a puzzle for many reasons including the fragmented nature of central government procurement and the inability of many departments to compile accurate procurement data. The brilliant and incisive Peter Smith at Spend Matters regularly writes on central government procurement.
Also this week, we hear that central government is having a few problems with back office shared services. You can read the details here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubacc/463/46302.htm
The baseline is that the influential Public Accounts Committee has been informed that far from saving money from joining up their back office systems, most of the five departments that have signed up to a 2004 scheme have managed to lose money as costs have overrun by £500M. According to the report, the costs of IT have been a major factor here – well there is a surprise!!
Readers need to bear in mind that most central government departments, excluding the likes of MOD, DWP etc, are no larger than district councils, yet they struggle to manage project costs or report accurately on their procurement spend. However, their ability to create illusions does appear to be a strong point.