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Police procurement deal means cops pay more

Handcuffing cops to one supplier means higher prices

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West Midlands Police Authority has cast doubts on Home Office claims about the savings offered by the controversial Sprint ii IT procurement framework and plans to minimise its use.

All forces in England and Wales were mandated by government in March to buy commodity hardware and software via Sprint ii – a pan-public sector single supplier agreement involving SCC – following benchmarking tests undertaken by the National Policing Improvement Agency.

The creation of a police ICT company next spring already cast doubts over the exclusive use of Sprint ii in police IT purchasing, and findings in the West Midlands Annual Procurement Report for the year ended 31 March 2011 may add to the uncertainty.

"From our experience of obtaining Sprint ii pricing from SCC, it has been found that, on average, SCC have been 12.87 per cent higher in terms of price than alternative routes," stated the report.

The authority found that in an ad hoc procurement exercise over a six-month period prior to March, based on quotes from SCC and alternative suppliers, it would have paid £20,496 more by going through Sprint ii.

"As a result of the above-mentioned benchmarking activity, there are ongoing concerns as to whether utilising this framework agreement will represent a best value approach for the authority," West Midlands stated.

It added that the Contracts and Procurement unit recently agreed a new ICT purchasing strategy with the CIO.

"As a result of moving away from commoditised purchasing to a more service-oriented supply approach, [it] may mitigate the amount we have to purchase via the Sprint ii mandate," said the report.

Nottinghamshire Police came to the same conclusion last November when in a whitepaper it also claimed that Sprint ii was more expensive than other contracts. But since its introduction, the agreement has been defended by the NPIA.

On top of the pricing benchmark by the NPIA, the Home Office's logic of moving police forces from Buying Solutions' Commodity IT Hardware and Software (CITHS) framework was to slash the number of administrative heads needed to handle procurement bids.

Stuart Fenton, EMEA and Asia Pacific president at Insight Enterprises – a CITHS supplier and public critic of the Sprint ii mandate – argued it was "inevitable" that entering into a single supplier framework was "not going to yield the best prices for the police".

"To cut costs, the government needs to consolidate the hundreds of IT frameworks and concentrate on one, thus eliminating the administration costs of running numerous contracts across numerous bodies," Fenton said.

In a statement sent to El Reg, an SCC spokeswoman said: "A mandation is never a popular decision – especially when it challenges longstanding local practices.

"However, we firmly believe in working collaboratively and constructively in helping to achieve the overall aims of standardisation and best value." ®

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