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CBI calls for better procurement

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The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is calling on the government to overhaul its procurement of technology.

In its report on Improving Delivery, Releasing Best Practice in Procurement, released yesterday, it urges the government to make better use of the Department for Trade and Industry's Technology Strategy Board.

The CBI said the board should be remodelled into a body similar to the US defence agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

"This would drive strategic thinking about future needs across all public sectors," the report says.

The industry body also wants the government to change its approach to purchasing within the public sector.

"Public procurement is not yet sufficiently professionalised and is excessively risk averse," the report says. "Too often, civil servants with insufficient skills or experience are unclear about what they want to buy at the outset, resulting in shifting sands during contract negotiations, delayed projects, and extra costs for both taxpayers and suppliers."

The CBI wants procurement "academies" to be established to enable other public bodies less frequently involved in big purchasing decisions to draw upon skills and support. All major departments should also develop commercial directorates, staffed by procurement professionals able to make and close deals.

"All projects above a certain value should also be subjected to robust periodic reviews with early intervention where projects are found to be in difficulty," the report says.

In another report published by the CBI and defence technology firm QinetiQ, it calls for the development of a UK Advanced Research and Projects Agency (UK ARPA). The agency would work with major government procurers and ensure they engaged actively in innovation of technology.

"Backed by significant funding on par with the UK's largest research councils, the new body should lead the development of new technologies and services across the public sector," the report says.

UK APRA will operate at arms length from the government and would be expected to link up with other departments, research councils, and other public bodies to tackle common needs.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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