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back to article UK gov could not procure its way out of a paper bag

Sir Philip Green's review of government efficiency has found... no evidence of efficiency. Green reviewed how government buys IT services, travel, phone and print services as well as how it manages its property portfolio. Green's researchers got access to department accounts and got information on government contracts and leases …

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No shit sherlock

Although at least now it's so in the politicians faces they (hopefully) cannot ignore it.

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And...

in our next story, Ursine forest defecation!

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And the suprising fact is?

such things are sourced from the dpeuty head's public school's mate who owns an overpriced outlet, with a 20% surcharge to cover the lavish meal and day out at whatever sporting event was used to grease their palms, thus ensuring he gets the rebid after sir philip has written the report

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Happy

More surprising and depressing than you think...

Some parts of the public sector, those that "suffered" Tory reforms (i.e., those with a privately minded layer of management sludge sitting on top of actual public sector employees) such as the NHS, are much as you'd expect with cleaning contracts always going to the company that the Trust's chairman has a well hidden stake-in.

The rest of the public sector is much the opposite and is likely the target of the attacks. Rather than act like a private enterprise and ruthless exploit you credit rating and help your cash-flow by paying as little and as late as possible, the more conservative/traditional public sector procurer operates under a set of guidelines laid down by a senior civil servant decades earlier that describe how government should properly comport itself in paying bills.

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Anonymous Coward

On the one hand yes

The govenment do what is right and moral, unlike allot of companys, in paying people on time and not overly querying things to try and get off paying. This also extends to the way it treats its workers in terms of pensions, sick leave and training.

However, on the other hand they do often fail to do things like bulk buying, asking for trade discounts or credit accounts, or use them when they are there. I know of one school that has a credit account with my company but insists on buying one range of products at full price from a local shop rather than at the 40% discount we offer, to "support local enterprise".

There are some good examples of where they do things right (look up ESPO and YPO), but also many where they are let down either by poor admin or strangled by regulation.

My qualifications for saying this? 4 years working for a local council, followed by 6 years in sales for a ftse 500 company.

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Government Procurrment?

I thought this was done by setting up a business selling something you don't have but buying it in at really low cost to sell to the government at vastly inflated prices?

Is this not the way that ALL MP's run the country?

I am staggered that there is no efficiency in government procurrment. (Sarcasm?)

By the way - some french bloke I know has some missiles that don't work properly, but you can have them at the knockdown price of £2bn. I am sure your techiez will be able to sort them.

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In other news...

Bear arrested for committing nuisance in woods

Italian-based church organisation run by Catholic

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Anonymous Coward

very taxing.

I seem to remember Sir Philip Green likes to avoid paying a fair bit of tax:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/08/20/sir-philip-green-tax-avoider-gets-job-on-the-side/

Just the man for giving advice on saving money.

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Avoiding != Evading

Avoiding paying tax is sensible, evading paying tax is illegal.

Spending government money in sensible ways is what we *want* them to do!

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Yes, very taxing

And then there's

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=in_the_back&issue=1270

One reason why it is as difficult for public sector spending to be as "efficient" (whatever that may mean) as private sector is that whilst in the private sector you are spending your own money so you can take as big a risk as you like, in the public sector you are spending the public's money, hence there must be greater checks that it is being done with the best interests of the public in mind. Hence it is more difficult to get the same potential bang for your buck.

Then again maybe Mr Green is the man for the job, as when it comes to spending public money he definitely has a idea how to do it. This is to cut out the middle man, so not paying it to government, and spend it himself. Allegedly.

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But surely

every school, GP and council dept. has to do their own purchasing(even though they've got better stuff to do & they aren't qualified to do it) otherwise its "top down stalinism" ( copyright D.Cameron et al).

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If you only knew...

As far as schools are concerned, yes, they do do their own purchasing. BUT you don't realise that they can only buy from suppliers who will let them pay via invoice, the schools are not permitted to use credit cards to buy direct from cheaper sources.

Then there is the extra charge (last I heard £1.50 per) imposed on the school for each invoice submitted to the local government for the budget paper trail.

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in related news...

... we discover that Salman Rushdie's telephone number is ex-directory.

had to get that one back out, sorry. Good on the Libdems for inviting what they knew would be a pretty caustic review, lets hope they can do something to rectify it.

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Tenders

The worst thing is even the opportunities that public sector organisations do put out to 'open' tender, they normally stipulate such strict absolute requirements (e.g. must have been in business x million years, must have provided similar services to at least x other public sector organisations etc) that they basically preselect who can tender as very few companies properly meet their requirements, despite many companies being able to offer a decent service at a fraction of the price they pay the 'big boys'.

I realise they need to ensure some amount of stability (you don't want to go through the hassle of setting up a 3 year contract for the supplier to then go bust the next day) and need to get proof the supplier knows what they're doing, but the way they do it at the moment with such strict requirements is just wrong...

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Anonymous Coward

Pre select - you must be joking

Having sat on the Council side when drawing up and evaluating tenders I have to say the chances of pre-selecting are between slim and none. And slim just left town.

The council's lawyers are all over you making sure you don't give any hint of what you might really want so you can't be accused of pre-judging. The respondents lawyers are all eagerly waiting for any thing they can use to then go to court with if they don't win.

And yes we like to know that the company we give x million to will still be here in 3 or 5 years because it's tax payers money and they get very tetchy when they can't use the Swimming pool or receive their housing benefit etc. because the tenderer went bust.

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Grenade

Shooting the Messenger

There seems to be a fair bit today.

Funny that when it's Gary McKinnon showing up the Pentagon's security thats all good, but when it threatens civil service empires...

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Anonymous Coward

Use the credit rating, Philip?

The only reason entrepeneurs are willing to put up with government is the generous pay, for the bureaucratic idea of paying on time is "oh, sometime next year, maybe". Which almost inevitably means the only companies willing to swallow the bait^W^W^Wbid on the tender is big fat inefficient large ones, that run slow enough that government payout speed isn't a problem.

It's far from a one-way street. But to clean that mess up you'd practically have to rebuild government from the ground on up and get people willing to actually work for their pay. Mere cuttings, not even cuttings of layer upon layer of superfluous management, is going to successfully cut the mustard.

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WTF?

Real question

What are they going to *do* about it?

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Joke

There's no reason...

Shopkeeper Sir Philip Green said: “There is no reason why Government should not be as efficient as any good business.

I think Sir Philip will find that *all* governments at all times in history have been utterly crap at efficiency. He doesn't need to know why before he can accept that there is probably *some* reason why this is the case. He should therefore have said "no known reason".

However, even this would have been inaccurate, because the reason has been known since the time of Adam Smith, if not earlier.

Governments can't go bust.

So there's no dis-incentive to being wasteful.

So any incentive (like, it's less effort) will ensure that they *are* wasteful.

It's just Sir Philip who lacks this basic grounding in economics. The possible solutions are to remove the incentive for waste (tricky, since waste *is* generally easier than efficiency), to provide a dis-incentive to civil servants and ministers to being wasteful (also tricky, but probably within the bounds of the possible) or have a mechanism for allowing a government to go bust.

The last of these is possibly the most interesting. For example, you could amend your constitution so that each government is allocated a certain amount of tax revenue upon being elected and if they spend the whole pile they are forced to call an early election. (Joke icon, because even I can see this has too many flaws to even list, but doubtless some right-wingnut will put it in their next manifesto.)

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Anonymous Coward

This Country is ......

Fucked. We have a £1 Trillion deficit. We ALSO have a £1 Trillion black hole in the Public Pensions pot , and on top of that we Labour's finest have spent the past 13 years screwing up the whole financial system. When I saw that stupid bitch Yvette Cooper had been installed as shadow foreign secretary I thought "god help us if morons ever vote Labour into power again as we will then be finished foir good" . Labour just does not understand financial affairs at all, nor do they present as anything but amateurs playing at being a Govt.

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lack of competition

> There is no reason why Government should not be as efficient as any good business

That's the biggest difference between a "good business" and a government: the business has to continually improve its efficiency, stay competitive, innovate and provide better service - or its customers will go elsewhere. Governments don't have to worry about such trivial things, they can just raise our taxes when they need more cash. Neither do the civil servants have any incentive. They're too scared of being found at fault to consider any approach except CYA - irrespective of the cost, efficiency, inconvenience or time taken.

While it would be hard to provide competition without having a second government (oh god, not two) - maybe a red one a nd a blue one, we could at least incentivise the one we have with a customer feedback system: Unemployment goes up: civil servants and politicians pay goes down. Too much police corruption? Add an extra year to all forces retirement age. Children not being taught properly? teachers lose a week or two off their summer holidays. ... and so on. I'm sure a few imaginative incentives could be found for all the waste-makers, maybe even enough to recoup some of the money they're costing us.

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Joke

Governments can go bust

This has happened several times throughout history. When taxation gets so excessive that people are no longer prepared to pay it, then sometimes the heads of those responsible find themselves detached from their owners' bodies.

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Coat

Meh!

I could have produced a much better report than Sir Philip's for less than half his asking price. Did it really need a knight to do a price comparison?

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Privatisation anyone?

As the anonymous coward that posted on the 11th October 2010 16:17 GMT, it's all the managers which have muffed it all up and that was thanks to the tory paperwork that still remained under Labour!

It feel's to me that the gov are simply going to privatise everything under a wastage banner - however the only problem with that is short term savings but long term expense. Look at defence, sub-contracts after sub-contracts and a massive lack of communication between the MoD and private companies. The same will probably happen with the NHS which is not too far off that, if not already there. I don't feel this is the answer.

What they really need to do is bring a well trained manager to basically demolish all other management. However these should not be outsourced, these should be the guys who are actually doing the work. This means a plan of training for current staff and allow them to make the changes to operate the public sector, much like David Cameron's big sociality except it is not run by the rich. Let those people define their own paperwork (or computerise most of the processes with very small software teams), let them solve the problems.

The only issue with this idea - some of the people may no want to do that, however I am sure there is a fairly large employment pool seeing as a larger and larger amount of people are becoming unemployed (more if the gov has it's way with the public sector).

Why sack all front line staff and increase the amount of wastage by leaving a far greater percentage of managers*?

*on a sub point, if they want to stop people becoming so dependant on benefits and get people back to work, why are they doing the opposite by culling the staff of the public sector? Privatisation anyone?

/end cynical rant

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Hmm...

So, instead of schools being able to go to the nearest Staples or Asda to buy pencils for 15p, they'll now have to fill in requisition forms in triplicate and wait 6 months until the government-approved central supplier provides them for £1.50 each? (With a minimum order size of 2500 units no doubt.) Haven't we been there before, and decided that devolving purchasing power was actually a good thing in most cases?

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Flame

Oh yeah?

“There is no reason why Government should not be as efficient as any good business."

One of the most fracking STUPID things I have ever heard.

Of course there is a good reason. It's the Government. If someone messes up, he gets a BIGGER BUDGET instead of a roach lodge under an underpass.

Hey, let's vote ourselves a pay rise. Hell yeah, that would be the ticket.

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NHS Central Agreemnts

I work for the NHS. Under Labour we had a centrally maintained Microsoft Agreement that gave us site wide licenses for all the core applications, and a limited number of licenses for others. With the change in government, this has not been renewed, meaning that all organisations now have to individually negotiate, and purchase, licenses.

This was a cost saving measure.

Will it save money? Probably not...

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Central Agreements in the Public Sector

No doubt the current government is going to cite this as a legacy of the previous goverment. Funny how our central agreements were not renewed after the change of government, leaving us to negotiate everything as individual organisations now. Surprise, surprise, it's all now much more expensive. <sigh>

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quel surprise

And he billed the tax payer how much for this gem of wisdom ?

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Privatisation anyone?

As the annoyamous coward that posted on the 11th October 2010 16:17 GMT, it's all the managers which have muffed it all up and that was thanks to the tory paperwork that still remained under Labour!

It feel's to me that the gov are simply going to privatise everything under a wastage banner - however the only problem with that is short term savings but long term expense. Look at defence, sub-contracts after sub-contracts and a massive lack of communication between the MoD and private companies. The same will probably happen with the NHS which is not too far off that, if not already there. I don't feel this is the answer.

What they really need to do is bring a well trained manager to basically demolish all other management. However these should not be outsourced, these should be the guys who are actually doing the work. This means a plan of training for current staff and allow them to make the changes to operate the public sector, much like David Cameron's big sociality except it is not run by the rich. Let those people define their own paperwork (or computerise most of the processes with very small software teams), let them solve the problems.

The only issue with this idea - some of the people may no want to do that, however I am sure there is a fairly large employment pool seeing as a larger and larger amount of people are becoming unemployed (more if the gov has it's way with the public sector).

Why sack all front line staff and increase the amount of wastage by leaving a far greater percentage of managers*?

*on a sub point, if they want to stop people becoming so dependant on benefits and get people back to work, why are they doing the opposite by culling the staff of the public sector? Privatisation anyone?

/end cynical rant

This in turn will empower people and lead to much lower costs in the future.

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Anonymous Coward

Efficiency

Is being bloatware in human form efficient? When you were chowing down all those pies, Mr Green, was that efficient? You rather seem to have stored a whole load of unneeded man fat at great expense to yourself and a few unfortunate duck livers as well.

Because sometimes, there's more to life than efficiency and the bottom line. Like, perhaps, ooooh, I dunno, having a sense of compassion?

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Followed by...

...Papal catholicism at 10.

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Easy way to curb spending waste

Sir Phillip’s investigation into Whitehall spending highlights a problem rampant across the private and public sectors. Staff should be as accountable for their printing costs as for their mobile phone bills, or travel expenses, particularly as the carbon footprint of paper within an organisation is significant and has a very high degree of waste.

An easy and immediate strategy for minimising the kind of printing waste that Sir Phillip has highlighted is to give companies the chance to plan well in advance to control spend and regulate the volume of consumables being used. This service – otherwise known as managed print services, (MPS) - is already giving customers the chance to regain control of their printing requirements, driving printing waste out of our businesses. Managed print services can help organisations save on average 20-40% of hard cost related to print, improve employee productivity and decrease environmental waste.

To address the kind of problems Sir Phillip raises in this report, businesses need to be proactive and forward thinking – and reducing print waste is an excellent and easy first step.

Phil Pate, Managed Print Services Director, Lexmark UK

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Anonymous Coward

Of course

...you have no vested interest in this at all. Or provide MPS. No sir-ee.

Besides, I think you'll find the salary bill for the civil service exceeds it's paper/printing costs by several degrees of magnitude anyway. Start there.

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Coat

In other news...

What, you've heard all these clichés before? Oh.

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Grenade

Pot, kettle?

Odd that DWP have a contract with Arcadia (owned by Sir Philip's wife in the tax haven of Monaco) for supplying people with clothing (via vouchers paid for by the tax payer) for the unemployed for interviews? Apparently DWP staff have highlighted this on numerous occasions as clothing could be obtained for a cheaper rate in Asda, Tesco, Primark etc thus saving the Dept money, but ...........

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Event the % saving could have been predicted before the report was written.....

Everyone knows the public sector fails to get good value due to their purchasing processes. However, he has only touched on the very obvious areas to save money. The percentage savings are similar to what is regularly found in medium size businesses when phones and print is looked at closely. It is just a reflection of confusion marketing.

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