Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/12/npia_backed_procurement_hub/

National police procurement hub goes live

Best laid plans of mice and NPIA

By Paul Kunert

Posted in Law, 12th August 2011 08:00 GMT

The National Police Procurement Hub goes live today with coppers in Lincolnshire the first to implement the "Amazon" styled e-commerce platform.

The portal set up by ProcServe with the backing of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), allows fuzz to buy IT, body armour and vehicles from 500 suppliers – though it was unable to list them.

This is the first phase of the roll-out, with all 43 forces in England and Wales due to be using the system by June 2012.

Government spending cuts means the police service needs to make savings of £545m by the end of fiscal 2014 and this procurement tool is estimated to save forces just £30m over six years – a mere drop in the ocean.

The service is expected to simplify procurement – ordering, buying, invoicing and paying online – and create better economies scale for the police, which is something the police ICT company is due to take charge of next spring.

"The police service is committed to deliver significant savings from better procurement," said Sue Moffat, head of commercial and procurement at the NPIA.

"It is absolutely vital that those charged with buying goods and services have direct access from their desktop to the tools that make them available quickly, and directly to their desktop," she added in a PR blurb.

It is worth pointing out that another NPIA initiative – encouraging government to mandate police forces' to use a single supplier framework Sprint ii – has resulted in price rises according to Nottinghamshire and West Midlands authorities.

Peter Steed, assistant officer and director of resources at Lincolnshire Police, said "in these financially challenged times" it was vital to deploy a system that offers "significant time and cost savings".

The procurement service will operate alongside existing buying processes so the police does not need to invest in replacing systems, NPIA said, which begs the question of how it can get all forces singing from the same hymn sheet.

A spokesman at NPIA told The Reg that IT suppliers must be invited by the forces to tender for business based on existing contracts, so presumably those firms will be expected to trade via the portal at vastly reduced margins.

"The hub makes its easier to business but it does not change contractual relationships," he said.

NPIA was unable to list the various police IT contracts or frameworks at the time of going to press or detail how it would get all forces buying IT kit from one place to build those much sought after economies of scale.

The police body said the relevant bods were on holiday, unlike the rest of the forces, whose leave was cancelled this week to deal with riotous teens. ®