The head of the government’s procurement service, OGCbuying.solutions, has admitted to MPs that she does not know how much public sector procurement takes place online.
The admission by OGCbs chief executive Alison Littley came at a Commons Public Accounts Committee hearing called to examine the agency’s value for money, following the publication last month of a National Audit Office report on the organisation.
The NAO found that the value for money savings reported by OGCbs were “significant”, but added that there was “considerable potential to increase value for money still further”.
Among its recommendations, the NAO called for increased use of e-auctions for letting new framework agreements – the pre-tendered contracts made by OGCbs with a range of suppliers from which public sector buyers can purchase goods and services.
There was also “significant potential” for public sector buyers to increase their own use of e-auctions, the NAO said. E-auctions could “deliver price savings when compared with more traditional procurement mechanisms”.
During an often tense grilling by the committee, Littley was asked by Conservative MP Philip Dunne if she knew what percentage of public sector procurement took place online – and conceded that she did not.
Littley was also forced to answer “No” when Dunne asked if OGCbs tracked the use of online procurement in the public sector.
The MP then asked if she was aware that the public sector was “four to five times worse” than the private sector in carrying out job recruitment online. “No, I wasn’t aware of that,” Little replied.
Speaking after the hearing, Dunne said he was surprised that the OGCbs chief executive “hadn’t got a clue” about the public sector’s use of online procurement methods. “It was surprising as the NAO raised e-auctions as one of the issues they looked into.”
He added: “I hope this will nudge OGCbs into paying much more attention to online procurement.”
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