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October 13, 2022updated 29 Nov 2022 2:55pm

Can transformational procurement aid the public sector?

How technology and services are bought and who they are bought from can have a transformative effect on departments.

By Matthew Gooding

Innovative procurement can have a transformational effect on public sector organisations, delegates at Tech Monitor’s Public Sector Technology Symposium heard.

Pav Devsi addresses delegates at the public sector technology symposium. (Photo by thephototeam.co.uk)

The event for public sector tech leaders was held on Thursday, October 6 at etc.venues in Fenchurch, and featured a panel discussion entitled Transformational Procurement. On the panel were Lee-Martin King, north EMEA commercial sales director at AMD, Einav Ben-Yehuda, chief commercial officer at Defra, the department for the environment, Pav Devsi, director of procurement and contracts across three NHS Foundation Trusts in London, and Philip Orumwense, commercial director and chief procurement officer for technology at government procurement agency Crown Commercial Service.

You can listen to a recording of the full panel below:

What are public sector organisations buying?

The panellists reported that when it comes to technology, their organisations are particularly interested in buying systems to enable greater automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning. These tools are viewed as a useful way to deliver more efficient services to the public at a time when resources in many departments are stretched.

Ben-Yehuda said Defra mainly uses buying frameworks to source new suppliers. “We use them extensively and see them as an easy route to market, and we know quite a lot of suppliers prefer us to access the market this way,” she said. “We look to CCS and other main framework providers. Where we go out to market is where we’re looking to innovate, or if we have legacy contracts where a framework will not be available to access that particular set of providers. It’s usually if we have very big or very small procurements [that we look outside the frameworks].”

Defra also has its own frameworks for specific products such as flood defences which aren’t required by other agencies. “With those types of framework, we’ve effectively helped create a supply market around joint ventures to enable the capabilities needed [by Defra] which is unique and large. The market has evolved to help us deliver those critical requirements.”

How procurement is transforming public sector bodies

Devsi said procurement can be used to deliver better public services. “In procurement, our most important job is to make sure we’re supporting the organisations we’re providing services for,” she said. “In the NHS we’ve got a 1.1% efficiency target that has to be applied to our spend. It’s important we make those efficiencies, and the way we can do that is to look at delivering care in more cost-effective ways.”

“That can be around elective recovery and supporting that, or having programmes that support patients in the community,” she added, citing the example of the procurement of blood glucose meters, which can replace the need for blood tests for patients with diabetes. “These can be put on the patient’s arm, it’s less invasive and the readings can be sent to clinicians so they don’t have to go and visit as often, and patients are able to live more independently,” she explained. It’s a small spend but valuable.”

Can procurement help organisations meet sustainability targets?

With sustainability and social responsibility both becoming important metrics for all government departments and organisations in the wider public sector, transforming procurement practices can go a long way to meeting targets.

AMD’s King said they have experienced a greater focus on sustainability from the public sector bodies they work with in the UK and across Europe, but he warned: “It is not universal.” He added: “Some organisations are standard bearers, but others are behind the curve, and this is something that can’t be ignored.”

He believes there needs to be a review of many tendering processes to open them up to a wider pool of providers. “Some of the tenders that come out are restrictive,” he said. “One of the things I would put to the public sector in the UK and across Europe is that if sustainability is a pillar of what you’re trying to do, you need an open tendering process so that a wide variety of vendors can put forward options that will save you money and hopefully help you towards your sustainability.”

Read more: How to protect the public sector against ransomware attacks

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