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NAO wants sustainable ICT procurement targets

Government departments falling short

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Central government's spending watchdog has called on the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to work with departments on new goals for the sustainable procurement of ICT.

In a report on the environmental impact of government procurement, the National Audit Office says that although the OGC has established collaborative procurement programmes in a number of areas, the ICT programme is not well advanced.

The programmes, covering five procurement categories with a potential environmental impact – ICT, energy, vehicle fleet, office solutions and travel - are open to Whitehall and the wider public sector. Although they were set up to achieve financial savings, over time they have devoted more attention to sustainable outcomes.

The NAO says that energy and fleet programmes were achieving sustainable outcomes, but that the ICT programme, set up in 2008 and working with the energy programme, was "less advanced".

In July 2008 a pan-government framework was launched for software to reduce technology power consumption. Six departments - the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, HM Revenue and Customs, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions – have begun to implement this or similar software. The government estimates this could cut annual energy costs by up to £10.2bn and carbon emissions by up to 55,700 tonnes.

In 2005 the government set a target that by 2009 it would be recognised as one EU's leaders in sustainable procurement. However, the report says that most departments are not routinely complying with minimum environmental standards and have made limited progress in building environmental considerations consistently into procurement processes, engaging suppliers and giving their staff appropriate skills and incentives.

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said: "Minimising environmental impact is recognised by government as a key criterion of good procurement. In 2008 progress was made by departments, but only some are on target to be practising sustainable procurement across their business by the end of this year.

"Procurement decisions need to be supported by a more thorough understanding of environmental benefits and costs, so that departments can show that their procurement meets the twin requirements of sustainability and value for money."

This article was originally published at Kable.

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