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The Office of Government Commerce is to be cut back in size and its reach reduced, but its powers will be increased

The government's procurement agency will also begin to work within rather than at arm's length from the Treasury. The moves were announced along with the publication of the Transforming Government Procurement report on 23 January 2006.

A spokesperson for the OGC told GC News that the key changes will be that, over the next few months, the agency will be reduced in size by about half, and its remit shortened to cover just central government rather than the whole public sector.

In addition, it will move to a Treasury building, and hand over the running of the government's efficiency programme to the department.

"It reflects what we do best, looking at government and identifying efficiency. The Treasury is saying that now it knows where to make savings it will implement them," the spokesperson said.

Despite this, the OGC will assume more power in the areas where it retains a role.

"We're now more interventionist," the spokesperson said. "In the past we could identity, suggest and recommend, but couldn't go into a department and tell them what to do.

"That will change. Now we can go and say something is wrong and tell them how to do it."

This will involve setting out procurement standards that departments should meet, monitoring their performance through procurement capability reviews, and demanding collaboration in buying common goods and services. The latter will include the use of OGCbuying.solutions, the Government Procurement Card and other single source purchasing.

The spokesperson added that, in addition to becoming smaller, OGC will become a more highly skilled, higher calibre organisation. It will continue to lead on procurement discussions and negotiations with the World Trade Organisation and EU, and to provide an input into directives and procurement law.

Among the measures outlined in the report is the establishment of a Major Product Review Group to provide an "enhanced Gateway review process". It will have the power to tell departments how to handle major projects: under the Gateway process a department could, if it wished, ignore a "red light" and carry on.

"The group will look at mission critical deals, the things that cannot be allowed to go wrong," the spokesperson said. "They're deals that have to go through where we can't afford to tiptoe around people."

Other plans in the report include:

  • The OGC to develop strategies for the procurement of commodity goods and services.
  • A single approach to sourcing coupled with a pan-government category management process.
  • Suppliers to report any concerns on the standard of procurement to the OGC.

Launching the document, financial secretary to the Treasury John Healey MP, said: "We must remain uncompromising in our pursuit of value for money for the taxpayer. The Government intends that, in the next Comprehensive Spending Review round, procurement will drive the delivery of public services in a way that matches the global pace of change."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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