Each year the 384 further education colleges in England spend £1.6 billion on a range of goods and services from books and stationery to examination fees and energy bills. Some colleges recognise the benefits of introducing more efficient and effective processes, but many need to improve their processes substantially, and could contribute to plans to save £75 million nationally by March 2008 if they do.
Today’s report to Parliament by the National Audit Office identifies practices that would lead to savings without compromising quality. Most importantly, colleges could redeploy these savings to support front-line teaching.
The report draws on work on procurement by the Office of Government Commerce and on procurement expertise within the National Audit Office gained from its reports on procurement in other sectors. It identifies key steps to improve the capacity of further education colleges to make savings and manage procurement more efficiently by:
- recognising the benefits and raising good procurement as a priority;
- taking advantage of more efficient procurement methods, such as e-procurement and the Government Procurement Card;
- reviewing, understanding and improving the management of current contracts and suppliers;
- sharing best practice; and
- exploring opportunities to collaborate with others, to gain economies of scale when buying goods or services.