back to article This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

An unnamed local council has entered the hall of shame for making the most eye-watering tech purchase of 2015 - coughing up a 1095 per cent margin on an SD memory card. This is according to the annual poll of 200 procurement heads from 24 industries by pricing bench markers KnowledgeBus, which found average margins paid had …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I bet this happens when an engineer is out on a job, needs something and their only option is PC World or Maplins.

    1. Bob Vistakin

      I thought I was the only one that applied to - cheers!

      On the other hand, if you work for one of these councils the pay is so crap your time is effectively worthless, so whatever bungs you can get really do count.

    2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Indeed. Like HDMI cables that cost £79 where they're only £2 in the real world

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Maplins and PCworld will pale in comparison to your average purchasing department for outrageous cost. You'd often save money , and weeks of 'lead time' if you could pop down the road to maplins and buy stuff.

        Obviously this excludes the comedy items like £79 HDMI leads , and optical speaker cables with gold connectors for "conductivity".

        1. Timbo

          "Obviously this excludes the comedy items like £79 HDMI leads , and optical speaker cables with gold connectors for "conductivity"."

          I've yet to see a "speaker cable" that uses optical technology to deliver sound from a stereo or AV system.

          Admittedly, gold-plating the tips of audio based (ie SPDIF) TosLink cables doesn't make sense...

          1. Mephistro Silver badge

            @ Timbo

            "I've yet to see a "speaker cable" that uses optical technology"

            Optical fibre "sound cables" are quite common. Not sure about 'speaker cables', though.

            1. Wilseus

              Re: @ Timbo

              "Optical fibre "sound cables" are quite common. Not sure about 'speaker cables', though."

              It's a physical impossibility. The job of speaker cable is to carry electrical current, quite a lot of it in some cases, in order to energise the speaker's drive unit(s).

              It's hard to see how you could achieve that by shining a red LED down a fibre optic cable!

              1. Kiwi Silver badge

                Re: @ Timbo

                "Optical fibre "sound cables" are quite common. Not sure about 'speaker cables', though."

                It's a physical impossibility. The job of speaker cable is to carry electrical current, quite a lot of it in some cases, in order to energise the speaker's drive unit(s).

                Friend of mine has a nearly 10yr old Panasonic surround system that uses a Wireless system to connect the rear speakers. No cabling between the unit and the speakers at all.

                1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

                  Re: @ Timbo

                  But still needs a bit of wire between the wireless receiver and amplifier thingy in the remote box and the speaker in that box.

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge

                    @ Inventor of the Marmite Laser


                    'Course, there's those units that've been around for decades where the amp and the speaker are all conveniently in the same box, only needing a source of signal. Which could be fibre, wireless, IR (don't think anyone ever got round to marketing those).....

                2. Wilseus

                  Re: @ Timbo

                  "Friend of mine has a nearly 10yr old Panasonic surround system that uses a Wireless system to connect the rear speakers. No cabling between the unit and the speakers at all."

                  I've seen systems like that. I guess a system could also use a digital toslink cable in a similar way. That wouldn't really make it a speaker cable though, in both cases the speaker cable would be the wires connecting the wireless receiver/amplifier electronics to the actual drive units.

            2. Lotaresco

              Re: @ Timbo

              Isn't the optical cable from my Airport Express to my active speakers a speaker cable? Just sayin'.

          2. martinusher Silver badge

            Overpriced cables

            A local store carries products that include a $40 wall socket that's silver plated and 'cryogenically treated'. These parts are around $1 at Home Depot.

            Audio should be excluded from this thread -- there's more than a sucker born a minute in that trade!

      2. LateNightLarry

        How much?!

        Sounds like somebody went to Worst Buy here in the states... One time I needed a printer cable and didn't want to drive 20 miles to Fry's, so I went to Worst Buy a couple of miles away... Cost me five times as much at Worst Buy... never again. And Fry's cable was actually better quality.

        Is it Wine O'clock yet?

      3. Adrian Tawse

        PC World

        I was in Currys PC World recently, looking at Tumble Dryers, when there were two elderly ladies purchasing something, I have forgotten exactly what, probably a DVD player. The sales assistant tried desperately to sell these two ladies an HDMI cable for the ridiculous price of a shade less than £80.00. He came up with every stupid reason you could think of, even down to losing electrons. I just could not let him get away with it, I told them to go to TESCO's just up the road for £4.00.

    3. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Or a cheap part [accidentally] ordered via expensive courier.

      I've seen such a case - $20 part arrived from China with a $240 shipment cost attached. Ouch.

      1. g e

        Or paying £130 for a 1TB hard disk

        cos you have a supply contract with HP

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Or paying £130 for a 1TB hard disk

          I worked with a council that had outsourced their IT to Fujitsu. Said council were running out of space on one of their servers but couldn't afford a new disk. Because Fujitsu were quoting them £5k.

        2. Flak_Monkey

          Re: Or paying £130 for a 1TB hard disk

          That's £30 for the disk and £100 for the pallet it will be delivered on.

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: Or paying £130 for a 1TB hard disk

            "That's £30 for the disk and £100 for the pallet it will be delivered on."

            Nah, the wooden pallet only costs about £4.

            It's the labour and materials, anti-static bag the drive's in, the bubble wrap bag that's in, the box that's in, the Styrofoam peanuts around that in the box that's in, The final box filled with expanded foam that's in, the 60 metres of cling film that wraps that to the pallet, and the plastic straps around everything to secure it.

            Then there's the packaging for the manual, warranty, and other paperwork when that arrives 6 months later. :/

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Or a cheap part [accidentally] ordered via expensive courier.

        Or 20 expensive parts ordered from RS Components. Only on delivery was it noticed that they shipped in bags of 10, of which purchasing had ordered 20...

        1. Oor Nonny-Muss

          When I were a lad...

          ... working in the stores of a company that was then part of the Ministry of Defence....

          The head of stores was told to order 144 boxes of Bic biros (medium, black). He duly ordered 144 *cartons* of Bic biros (medium, black) not knowing that a carton of Bic biros contained 144 boxes...

          A couple of weeks later - 4 articulated trucks showed up, direct from Bic in France with his biros...

          144 cartons of 144 boxes of 100 biros. All black medium. A lot of biros.

          They were still using them 10 years later.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: When I were a lad...

            Good buy then, bet they saved upteen pounds in admin fees and re-ordering costs over the years - where one LPO could cost £90 before you add on the cost of the item

          2. N2 Silver badge

            Re: When I were a lad...

            Same happened with rubber bands, we received about 4 million because someone doofed a nought or two & it got multiplied up.

            But best of all, was the time some digits got swapped around as the order was keyed in. Three weeks later, the base came to a halt as a low loader arrived under escort bearing two enournous kedge anchors. Having explained that we really did not need or order them the driver cheerfully said "so you wont be wanting the other four then?" The initial order was for just 6 light bulbs.

          3. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: When I were a lad...

            Write on

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: When I were a lad...

            When I were a lad in t'NHS some administrator worked out that we used a lot of glass microscope slides and decided to spend an awkward year-end budget surplus on buying a lot of microscope slides. I think they also added an extra order of magnitude by accident. The optical glass company salesman was delighted. The factory recruited more workers and bought more machinery to make the slides. They went onto 24 hour shifts to complete the order. Soon all the available storage was full of glass slides. The warehouse chosen permitted trucks to drive onto the warehouse floor to be unloaded.

            For about five years no one really noticed any problems. Requisition a box of slides, get them delivered, get working. Then bit by bit tests started to fail, elaborately prepared specimens wouldn't stick to the slides, stains failed to stain, or stained far too much and cover slips fell off even when glued with Canada balsam. Eventually someone found out about the warehouse and worked out that oily diesel fumes had coated all the slides making them useless. People started to buy new slides direct from the maker. This was banned by the administrators because "we have a warehouse full of them".

            The only way to use the slides was to elaborately wash and dry them using some nasty and expensive chemicals. The process took about three days of labour - some labs had a technician whose only job was to clean and prepare slides. It cost a fortune in cleaning solvents and detergents.

            Eventually the SlidePile(tm) was used up and another purchase order was raised. But sadly the glass factory was long gone. One brief burst of riches followed by a fifteen year drought of orders had left them with huge loans and wage bills and no income.

        2. Ian Emery Silver badge

          A carpenter friend did this once, asked to make a new board room table for a local business, he ordered what he THOUGHT was eight lengths of oak wood; what he ACTUALLY ordered was eight TONNES!!

          He didnt realise until the low loader tried to drop the lot in his tiny workshop a few days later; luckily they took it back.

          SWMBOS boss does this all the time, SWMBO asks for eight of something and the boss orders eight boxes.

        3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          "Or 20 expensive parts ordered from RS Components. Only on delivery was it noticed that they shipped in bags of 10, of which purchasing had ordered 20"

          Once upon a time, RS used to recycle their six digit order codes. This explains how we managed to order 25 small signal NPN transistors the day after a catalogue change, and be told there was a crate waiting for us in stores. 25 off woofers. How we laughed...and thereafter used it as an example of why you should never, ever reuse unique identifiers.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      No it's when an engineer is out on a job and isn't allowed to buy something from PC world but must purchase it through the internal supplier.

      What it also doesn't account for is that although they paid 50quid for a 5quid card - they also had to spend an hour filling in the paperwork, and various levels of manager spent an hour authorising and processing it. That wasted time cost 10x as much as the 50quid

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I dream of paper work. Our place uses an online, inflexible and impenetrable system.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, these things may cost bit more at the retail suppliers, that's what retail means; but in my experience the real mega-markups are when they buy from an authorised supplier who has a captive market and makes up any (small ) discount they have given on specified items by charging stupid money for anything else.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oddly for the NHS at least they were banned from PC world. They purchase through an NHS purchasing sudo arm that all the organisations were tied to. They had a markup of about 200 - 400%

      My IT Director had no control of it as it was meant to make things cheaper through collective bargaining.

      However 135 for a printer when PC worl flogged same model for 35 and you can see the problems, when PC world are considered the cheap option.

      We used to get round it by paying for it and claiming back on expenses. Saved the tax payer a fortune.

      So 900% markups are not uncommon. I was once involved in a service purchase that was 90000. I questioned basics like "is there a Tendor" and was met with utter shock as they don't tender, they also don't consider what they pay for. 40000 grand on a licence they didn't consider they needed and 25000 on support they didn't actually need as they had IT staff capable of doing it. The actual worth of the contract was a 2000 server and 12000 licence. 14000 from a 90000 cost.

      What is that as a markup. It's not their money and they don't consider the basics you would if you made it for your self. And they are tied by stupid rules from parliament.

  2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    Procurement always works this wonder

    I haven't seen a Procurement Department yet that did not opt for the more expensive supplier. Perhaps they justify it on the basis of paying more for reliability. I have suspected either incompetence or bungs or both. Sometimes popping out to Maplins was the cheaper option.

    1. Immenseness

      Re: Procurement always works this wonder

      "I haven't seen a Procurement Department yet that did not opt for the more expensive supplier. Perhaps they justify it on the basis of paying more for reliability."

      Well if you haven't spent a huge amount on expensive IT this year, how on earth can you justify next year's massive budget request to maintain your empire? *

      Mine is the one bought under a PFI agreement that I'll be making payments on for the next 35 years.

      * Only half joking after years of working with government departments.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Procurement always works this wonder

      The expensive supplier is often chosen because it delivers on account and invoices.

      It might be cheaper and quicker to pop out to Maplin, but it creates issues like "Why isn't X at his desk?" and then there's the faff of drawing petty cash or paying with your own money and claiming on expenses. The solution is a company charge card, but the PHB doesn't like allowing minions to spend company money.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Procurement always works this wonder

      I work for the government of a country that shall remain unnamed.

      Some years go I got funds to buy a server. I had X doubloons and decided to configure a server from a maker I know that would cost 0.98 X doubloons. Our procurement department said that I could not do that because the server configuration I wanted was not on a list of Approved Purchases. Long story, with me at one point screaming with the idiots that I wanted to get the best deal within the budget, and they repeating that "not an approved purchase, not an approved purchase, notanapprovedpurchase, notanapprovedpurchase, notanapprovedpurchase!! (sound of hoofs hitting the floor)". Of course they didn't want to add my configuration (again -- same maker!) to the list of approved purchases unless a committee of a dozen notables, some of those already dead, meet and discuss it.

      At the end I gave up and get one of the Approved servers -- half the capacity and memory, for the low, low price of 0.85 X doubloons.

      Now you know how governments spend money -- stupidly.

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: Procurement always works this wonder

        "Now you know how governments spend money -- stupidly."

        No different in many larger businesses I'm afraid.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Procurement always works this wonder

        My one stint in the public sector was at an Irish University, where the purchasing department was referred to as the "someone's cousin department."

      3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Procurement always works this wonder

        My experience in working for a US government contractor some years ago suggested that the government has excellent rules for getting a good deal on shovels, screwdrivers, and manual typewriters; applied to something changing at the rate of computer technology, they more or less guaranteed the purchase of obsolescent equipment.

      4. benderama

        Re: Procurement always works this wonder

        While your configuration was most likely fine, it's government. Everything has to be approved so everybody has to feel important. And you're not allowed to have original ideas without prior-approval, which you can get in advance of thinking you'll need prior-approval by filling out form I-93-V3 in biro (medium, black).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Procurement always works this wonder

      When my bit of the local authority got tied in to the corporate IT section we had to start using their preferred supplier.Previously I had been able to spend a few minutes researching what we needed and then phoning around to get teh best price.

      The corporate approved supplier turned out to be about 20% more expensive than what we could have bought the same bits for, often only seemed to have only much higher spec than the ones we needed and in some ways the worst part of this, we had to order larger items through corporate IT and pay corporate's admin cost. But the supplier they always used (never any alternative/cheaper/better supplier) was actually part of one of the same companies that I had been using, but was now banned from because it wasn't the " right" brand of that company. I think I'd have been less angry if they had dome any research. But no it was just buy the standard (often expensive) item from the usual (usually expensive) supplier. And when ever I asked them for advice about a product, such as TCO for a printer, they couldn't ever tell me.

    5. cray74

      Re: Procurement always works this wonder

      "I haven't seen a Procurement Department yet that did not opt for the more expensive supplier. Perhaps they justify it on the basis of paying more for reliability. "

      My Procurement Department always opts for the cheapest supplier possible, but "possible" is defined by Quality (parts have to meet spec), Supplier Quality (can't hire uncertified or blacklisted firms), Engineering (sets the specs), and Production Planning (must have parts by date X) Departments so the selected supplier is rarely the actual cheapest.

      That supplier is rarely us, though. We outsource most components because even though our in-house shops can often do the work better and much more conveniently, they're 3x to 4x as expensive as a dedicated outside firm that does nothing but machine, forge, plate, paint, or wire up such components. Those guys have lots of customers while our shops only have a few, and high overhead (partly because they have so little work...).

      As a result, we get what's superficially the cheapest possible component, at least until something goes wrong. Then a problem I could've debugged in an hour with a short walk over to the paint shop or machine shop and talking to the operator becomes a matter involving management, Supplier Quality, dozens of ineffective emails, and days of travel to some mom-n-pop supplier in BFE that eats up dozens or hundreds of labor hours.

      But Procurement doesn't pay for engineering and Supplier Quality expenses, so the parts they purchased continue to look like the cheapest possible option. Management, of course, loves this "cost savings" and won't countenance in-sourcing as anything but a last resort.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Procurement always works this wonder

      I work as an on-site contractor for the NHS. I used to as a favour, detour into Maplins on the way home and pick up cheap things like batteries that was needed in a hurry, and get it back via petty cash. Then the IT dept weren't allowed to keep petty cash, and I had to use their expenses system. Still waiting for reimbursment from last year...

      Now I can't be arsed and let them order through procurement - only took a month to get some rechargable AAA batteries.....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No just products

    And you wonder why motorways cost £1-million per metre to build, and HS2 is mega-billions, and they still pay their workers near minimum wage, and the Government and Councils still have to pay out benefits and pensions to make the shortfall. This is not "competition" and economy of scale.

  4. BigAndos

    Procurement departments are a waste of space

    I needed to get a new Visual Studio license recently for a contractor in my team. Our procurement department quoted me £2500 for the exact same license level that I found for $900 on Microsoft's website. This is private sector as well! Of course I wasn't allowed to buy directly, and after several weeks I'm still waiting for the license.

    I really don't get this as other companies I've worked in are similar. Are the waste of space "partners" for companies like Microsoft bribing procurement departments en masse? I appreciate there may be support agreements as well, but I've never been that impressed. We had an issue with a SQL Server DB recently and our very helpful partner eventually responded asking us to send them a copy. Yes sure, we'll send you our multi terabyte DB containing loads of customer data no worries!

    1. Locky Silver badge

      Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

      $900 = £2500?

      The way the pound is going this week, that's about right....

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

        Everyone is talking about the how the £££ has dropped - but have you taken a look at the charts for the Euro? Almost identical..

        Pound vs Dollar

        Euro vs Dollar

        1. moiety

          Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

          Virgin's share price also looks like that, as do -I suspect- a great many UK businesses.....a cliff face followed by much wobbling at a significantly lower level. Looks like a picture of the cliffs of Dover during a storm, so it's patriotic, I suppose....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

          "Almost" being the keyword here.

          You forgot the one of Pound vs Euro - where the pound *also* falls:

          So your currency is taking a much harder hit than ours - if you look at the numbers on the charts, instead of just comparing the shapes, you'll notice it's about 5× harder, 0,02 for the Euro against 0,1 for the pound.

          Which is relevant for the article, which is also conveniently forgetting absolute numbers, privileging the shocking percentages. Because they bought one SD card at the price of £10 instead of 1 - yeah, it does make for a funky 900% surcharge, but for a budget, it doesn't matter. If they bought 1000, that's another matter, of course..

        3. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

          Re: Pound vs Dollar vs Euro

          the charts may look identical, but the pound has still lost almost 10% against the euro from its pre-Brexit value, so it's clearly taken the bigger hit.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Pound vs Dollar vs Euro

            Hey, I'm not saying the pound hasn't been hit hard, or harder than Euro - it clearly has - I was just pointing out that no-one has been mentioning that the Euro has *also* taken a big hit, that's all.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Pound vs Dollar vs Euro

              The Euro took a hit of only 3%, that's a bit more than typical daily volatility but nothing like 10%. The main reason the euro took a hit is because those selling pounds bought dollars, and all that dollar buying made it go up against the euro. The euro didn't "fall" so much as the dollar rose - the dollar rose against every currency.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Pound vs Dollar vs Euro

                "the dollar rose against every currency."

                Yup. The graph of USD v Yuan is also a very similar shape barring some extra spikes.

              2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

                Re: Pound vs Dollar vs Euro

                @DougS - good point, I hadn't considered that.

        4. Commentariat2016

          Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

          That's because whilst the Leave vote has irreparably damaged the UK economy, it has also damaged the Eurozone economy - hence both of our currencies have fallen versus the (proportionally less screwed) US dollar,

          Yay, we've screwed our economy, but at least those pesky foreigners are also knackered.

        5. edge_e

          have you taken a look at the charts for the Euro?

          so what you're saying is a ~3% fall is almost identical to a ~13% fall ?

          maybe you should refer to this

          GBP vs Euro

          Edit: note to self, read the replies before posting

        6. fin-man

          Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

          Jeah, sure: the pound has dropped 10+ percent, the euro 2.7 percent. With that kind of math, I'm glad we get rid of you British.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

            @fin-man: I realise English probably isn't your first language, but I think you may have interpreted the comments incorrectly. I don't believe anyone (including me) said that the Euro was hit to the same degree as the pound, so your point is moot (thanks to DougS for pointing out some background on the mechanics).

            Also, unless you are American, I believe the accepted abbreviation for mathematics is 'maths', not 'math'. That annoys me almost as much as people referring to a newborn as 'baby' - as if it's their name or something. e.g. How is baby? What did baby shit up this morning? etc. AArrrgghh.....need coffee (or less)!!!

        7. IsJustabloke Silver badge

          Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

          Steady on Spoon old boy.... a bit off message there aren't you?

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

            "a bit off message there aren't you?"

            Probably :)

        8. Lars Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Procurement departments are a waste of space

          "but have you taken a look at the charts for the Euro? Almost identical.."".

          Does that make you happy, you eat shit of your own making and now you are happy the rest of the EU has to eat your shit too. Shame on you.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My wife has a "condition" and was offered a grant to hire a laptop from the preferred supplier to help her at university for 6 months. The suggested machine didn't even meet the specs of the software she required. She pointed out that more powerful machines were available to _buy_ for less. Amazingly they did that instead: free laptop.

    Now the council she works for is rolling out Windows Phones...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Now the council she works for is rolling out Windows Phones..."

      That's very cost effective versus the alternatives - and very secure - did your wife suggest that too?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now the council she works for is rolling out Windows Phones...

      I would love us to get Windoze phones. Instead we are stuck with iShiny things that are nowadays extremely average for a premium price...

    3. NotBob

      Shouldn't have to worry about theft...

  6. Roq D. Kasba

    What's the story behind the headline?

    That's a bit Daily Mail - is it something like...

    'Oh Guys we need a top spec card as a part of this £x00,000 network upgrade at immediate notice and it's 2am on a Sunday and the cost of rolling back is £x!!!'

    'OK here's a supplier who can deliver in 30 minutes but the minimum order is £100'


  7. Cynical Observer

    This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

    I don't know - the article doesn't actually say and I couldn't find a link.

    I'm sure there's some really juicy numbers in the survey - but please why not actually give at least the equivalent of they spent £#### on an Xgb card.

    Bearing in mind that 100% margin is a doubling in cost price, coughing up a 1095 per cent margin on an SD memory card. is 11 times bigger than that. But on what starting price?

    Devil's in the detail.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

      Yes, it's like the 'NASA spent $200 on a hammer!' stories. A specialised space hammer made of unobtanium with delivery, and it suddenly looks like a bargain compared to a £1 lump of rusting mild steel with dust and burrs from a pound shop.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

        Those $500 hammers where infact yer bog standard mild steel jobbies.

        It's an accounting "trick" where a purchase doesn't have line item costs, so x different items for $y total means each item gets marked as having a cost of y/x.

        The infamous invoice for this had, in addition to the large numbers of tools, a jet engine on it. Which was *also* valued at $500.

        While "government is dumb" and procurement is full of bollocks (see many other posts) this is one of those oft repeated stories that actually make sense (as much as accounting ever does) when you look into the details.

        I can bore you to death with how it was McDonalds fault for serving coffee too hot and other such stuff. But snopes usually do it better than me :)

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

      But even if the article did give a price, it would be largely meaningless.

      SD cards just like USB drives and have prices that fluctuate from week to week and from supplier to supplier with a general downward trend over time. So just establishing what a normal price is at any given time is going to be difficult.

      Plus we have the issues of catalogues, if your approved supplier's catalogue only lists particular devices then that's your choice even though the market may have moved on making what was yesterday's expensive high perform card cheaper than the price listed for yesterday's lower specification card.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What are the El Reg units for SD card costs then?

    Is an SD card worth 48 beer bottles or is there a related universal constant like the speed of light that can be represented in monetary terms like other units of measure?

    Now I know it weighs only 2 nano whales...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are the El Reg units for SD card costs then?

      Are they UK or European bottles?

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: What are the El Reg units for SD card costs then?

        Uh, the UK is still part of Europe :)

        I think you wanted "African or European bottles"

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: What are the El Reg units for SD card costs then?

          What? I don't know that...


        2. MrDamage

          African or European bottles

          Given the sheer size of the mighty Darwin Stubby, in this instance I believe the question should be "Australian or European bottles?"

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: African or European bottles

            Wow, now that is a big beer bottle :)

        3. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: What are the El Reg units for SD card costs then?

          "Uh, the UK is still part of Europe :)"

          We still have UK versus European pallet sizes for instance...

  9. james 68

    They should include purchases by school bodies in this research, shame some sense into them. I worked for a number of schools in Northern Ireland and they were regularly paying 3 to 5x the going rate for computer gear. Laptops, desktops and tablets were all 3x the going rate, servers, switches, wifi access points and printers were 5x the going rate or often more.

    Suppliers were even charging 15 quid for 500meg USB thumbdrives. Once they get the supply contract anything goes, and they never lose that contract regardless of how much they increase prices or fail to meet targets because it is all doled out via the "old boys network".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      School IT

      My wife is a teacher and recently was asked to go through at the 'Junk Cupboard'

      Hence I now have an office ful of Dell PCs still in their boxes, but have s/w issues

      The kids download stuff and things stop working.

      Their IT peope just send a replacementunit everytime, so they end up with spare towers

      IT Supplier says ditch them but th council won't take them away, so I'm gona recycle them! :)

    2. Julian 16

      I'm in my 12th year of working in a UK school and we've average a budget of about £32,000 a year over that time. When I started here, the first thing I did was stopped using the council's hardware provision service and set up accounts with a multitude of vendors. Dropped Windows on servers and started using Linux until the OVS agreement came in and the price dropped and at the first opportunity we dropped the council's broadband provision of 10Mb/s fibre for £18,000 a year, negotiating our own agreement with BT for an unmanaged 100Mb/s line for £8,000 a year.

      BSF came and went with us being quoted £150,000 pa for no on-sight network management and a single tech who wouldn't be allowed to touch anything without permission from head office.

      Thank a convenient deity that that crock was killed off. We have two people permanently on site for £60,000 less than a private contractor would charge and >99.9% uptimes, expanding as we go by using refurbs.

      Doing everything in-house keeps the costs right down.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: UK schools...

        Doing everything in-house keeps the costs right down.

        If you want to further reduce costs, start talking to your cluster schools. Some years back we set this up for one of my local schools. The IT department resides at the secondary school, the six primary schools in the cluster contribute in, resulting the IT department recruiting a additional full-timer who's notional job is supporting the primary schools (the actual job is shared within the department). Each primary school gets a higher level of support than they would have received if they had had to contract individually with third-parties, plus the primaries now get access to the secondary school's software expertise on Scratch for example.

        The advantage of having a full-time person, is that when they aren't fixing problems they are available to develop low maintenance solutions that can be deployed to the schools, such as the replacement of Windows with Linux.

  10. Vince

    With the total absence of numbers in that article of any use, how do we know that was even a realistic 1000+ percentage markup supposedly made.

    Was it a high end SD card or a low end and slow one?

    Was it an encrypting one?

    How big was it?

    We don't know any of that so we can't judge if it was really 1000%+ overpriced.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Missing the important question

      Has it been lost yet??

      1. Alistair Silver badge

        Re: Missing the important question

        ..... And what PII was on the unencrypted SD card left in the local starbucks?

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      @ vince

      "We don't know any of that so we can't judge if it was really 1000%+ overpriced"

      You dont need to know any of that to know if was really 1000% overpriced.

      if it was a cheap £1 card - they paid £10

      if it was a swish £80 card - they paid £800

      percentages you see

      The juicy bit everyone seems to want to know - how much extra was actually paid - is irrelevant given that this is going on constantly . Its not a one off.

      1. NotBob

        This was a one off. It says as much in the article.

      2. ChrisC

        Percentages are all well and good if you're comparing like for like. What isn't entirely clear here is whether or not this is actually the case. If the council did indeed buy a swish SD card because that's what was required by the piece of kit being used with the card, but on its passage through their accounting department the purchase ended up being registered simply as "X GB SD card - £Y", then a third-party onlooker with no understanding of *why* that purchase had been made might then think "OMFG, they spent *THAT* much on an X GB SD card, I can get those from eBay for waaaay less"...

        And even if you are comparing like for like as far as the actual card specs themselves go, as others have pointed out, some/all of the markup may have been down to it being an emergency purchase that pushed up the total cost due to the use of the first supplier they could find who could provide the card there and then, but where the cost to the council of NOT spending the extra to get the card ASAP would have been even higher...

        I mean, yes, it's more likely that it was a genuinely overpriced purchase made for no other reason than it's how the council always does this sort of thing, but let's not rule out the slender possibility that, just this once, the council really did get the best value for money they could in the specific circumstances.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          "If the council did indeed buy a swish SD card because that's what was required by the piece of kit being used with the card"

          Quite plausible. Certified spare part from vendor X - maybe with a specific software image. Plenty of possibilities here. Context matters a lot.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bet it works like you have to use an "approved" supplier because, well, they are approved. Approval is gained by the size/cost of the lunch/event the approving person is treated to. The supplier then has to recoup all those expenses so ...

    1. Rob 44

      Yes. Exactly this. I personally saw tens of thousands wasted in the NHS as they had to use an approved supplier. Everything from pencils to printer's are all purchased from the same catalogue at a ridiculous mark up from store prices.

      One in particular always sticks with me. We needed a simple tool set to maintain some patient trolleys. We could purchase the one we needed from Halford for £20. Only to be told, no. It has to be from the catalogue. The equivalent was just under £200.

      I can't for the life of me work out how no one can see this collosal waste of money for what it is. It must cost the NHS hundreds of thousands every hour.

      1. goodjudge

        Re: This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

        Colleagues asked the same question in our organisation. The corporate response was that if people could buy from wherever they liked, there is no oversight as to whether it really is the cheapest, is actually necessary, is correct for the job etc. They also told us it would mean Finance managing multiple small supplier accounts rather than a few large accounts, with increased admin costs, duplication etc. So the extra spend on Product X is allegedly more than balanced by reduced (hidden) organisational costs elsewhere. Up to you whether you believe that.

        1. MrDamage

          Re: This local council paid HOW MUCH for an SD card?!

          That may have once been the case during the days of hand-written ledgers and cheques, but these days with automated systems, spreadsheets, multiple monitors and this handy function called "copy/paste", that "hidden" cost is virtually non-existent.

          The purchasing department just want to hang on to their "free calendars" and annual fancy lunch.

  12. ISYS

    The military can beat this

    This reminds me of an old ShoeComics strip. I can't find it on Google but basically somebody was complaining about the Air Force spending $78 on a woodscrew - The General said:

    Ah to you it is a woodscrew, but to us it is a M-1 8 fully-slotted, manually activated, fibre intrusive, material securing device.

    1. Cynical Observer

      Re: The military can beat this

      Ah to you it is a woodscrew, but to us it is a M-1 8 fully-slotted, manually activated, fibre intrusive, material securing device.

      Which they probably installed using a manually driven, percussive action, shaft impeller

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: The military can beat this

        I liked a Welsh builder telling the building inspector that a joist was secured with 'mild steel dowelling pins' - nails.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: The military can beat this

          But nails are 'mild steel dowelling pins' or cylindical dowels in some standards

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I be the first to ask why any computer even accepts sd cards in a corporate network?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      users eh

      "why any computer even accepts sd cards"

      although i instinctively gave you an upvote for security , we do have to make concessions , like letting the users logon for instance.

      Some of them will insist till they are blue in the face they need to use a digital camera - estates people , and marketing/hr droids - are prime suspects.

      How do you get those pics onto the network?

    2. ChrisC

      Leaving aside the perfectly valid reasons why a corporate-networked PC might be allowed to access SD cards (or indeed any other type of removable storage), who said it was being used with a PC in the first place?

    3. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      Legal reasons

      My guess would be they're used for prosecutions - e.g. by health inspectors to take pictures of rats with a digital camera (not a phone).

      Probably they need a separate SD card for each prosecution so that it can be verified when the pictures were taken rather than copying stock photos into a folder (you know - forensic copy, store the original in a safe).

      This is why councils buy big expensive WORM drives to store council tax records in case they get challenged in court...

    4. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: why any computer even accepts sd cards

      Because it's Secure, and Digital. Duh!


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't surprise me in the slightest. The company I work for is the exclusive UK supplier of a foreign made network device. A large UK government entity wanted to buy several of these devices. They could have come to us directly but as they have large IT supplier contracts in place, they had to go through 8 different layers of companies all slapping on their own charge just for passing a purchase order through. One of them increased the cost by 25%. It would be laughable except the fact that the taxpayer foots the bill.

  15. Douchus McBagg

    I've just had an argument with our purchasing department as someone can't tell the difference between "quad card" as in a basic four port graphics card, and a "Quadro M4000 8G card" that Dell have seen fit to slide into our standard platform build.

    maybe I should give in to the stupidity of the system, take advantage and say I need a gtx1080... for erm, for errr... 1080p displays.. yeah... that'll work.

    1. Rob 44

      Sad thing is it probably would work. Tell them I need one too haha.

  16. Dabooka Silver badge

    It's hugely frustrating

    I work local authority and could do with a couple of PoE injecotrs for a voip.

    Now our IT dept has it's own preferred suppliers, not done via procurement dept. They want a king's ransom for something I can get for what, ~£20-30? I know it's a Linksys, and I'm sure it has advanced features, but for this task a cheapo TP-Link would be fine thank you very much.

    I think I'm going to have to make some petty cash purchases.

    1. Lotaresco

      Re: It's hugely frustrating

      "cheapo TP-Link would be fine thank you very much"

      Having just battered a solution architect to death for buying a TP-Link component I beg to differ. Although the prices are attractive the quality isn't there and they end up costing a fortune in maintenance / replacement.

  17. Toltec

    It's an old story

    The principal of a college I worked at saw a shiny plasma screen in the foyer of another college he had visited so decided to buy one. Not only did he pay an obscene installation charge, 20% over RRP for a screen available for 60% of RRP, but assumed that the IT department had a magic cupboard they could pull a piece of kit out of to drive it.

    Much fun ensued when he tried to get the cost assigned to an IT budget after the fact, he was pointed at the new protocol he had signed off requiring all IT purchases to be run past the IT manager prior to order. I think it ended up on his slush budget used for buying his biscuits, personalised crockery, redecorating his private bathroom or any other vanity purchase he could not foist on another department.

    1. Darryl

      Re: It's an old story

      Don't you mean his "hookers 'n' blow" budget?

      1. billse10

        Re: It's an old story

        was he an MP as well?

      2. Lars Silver badge

        Re: It's an old story

        "Don't you mean his "hookers 'n' blow" budget?". That reminds me of a guy who spent some time in Germany and then tried to enter a bill from "Escort Service" into his travelling expenses claiming he had to service his Ford Escort. Nice try.

  18. Duffaboy

    New Server and UPS

    About 18 months ago i was asked to install a new server (HP Proliant) and UPS for a customer after they had transferred the DATA off the old server so it could be restored to the new server. Well the data on the old drive(yup no Raid) was corrupted though the O/S was fine so the job was cancelled. I revisited the same customer a few weeks ago for another matter and the New server is still there unused and boxed unloved.

  19. jason 7

    I've mentioned this before about corporate suppliers.

    I challenged our purchasing department many years ago as to whether our preferred IT supplier was offering the best deal.

    Preferred IT Supplier - 1x32MB RAM stick - £200 and 6 week delivery.

    Crucial Website - 1x32MB RAM Stick - £20 and 2 day free delivery.

    I just got told to "shut up!"

    I guess the Preferred supplier provided better 'jollies' than Crucial.

  20. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    What's the source?

    When I worked for a council, the local paper reported that we spent £11 million on an email system.

    How anyone can spend eleven million quid on Exchange 2000 boggles me, but they basically read the accounts wrong - £11 million was our entire IT budget, including staff, Oracle licences, Sun hardware, Exchange - everything. For three years*.

    * Yes, this was a few years back, just in case you skimread the "2000" bit...

    1. englishr

      Re: What's the source?

      @Zippy's Sausage Factory

      "£11 million was our entire IT budget, including staff, Oracle licences,..."

      Ah, so the Oracle 11-user license then. Nice.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my employer manufacturers a certain piece of kit. we all use that piece of kit as part of our daily job, and sometimes we want to "seed" sample units to potential customers.

    sadly because of internal procurement rules we can't just order these devices from ourselves, we have to have them fulfilled via an approved external supplier ... so we pay a good 50% markup and usually have to wait a couple of weeks longer than a real customer to get the kit (which also doesn't come with the usual retail warranty so if it breaks we have to order a new one). I've actually been waiting 9 weeks (and counting) for a seed unit to give to a partner for an evaluation (when I could have gone to a retail point of sales and hand delivered it quicker and cheaper)

    I suspect our process is a result of some muppet pinching units and selling them out of the boot of their car a decade ago but now we have to live with this madness

    (oh, the partner I wanted to get the seed unit for ... they went and bought one at retail, but I can't cancel the internal order now the PO has been approved...!)

    1. swampdog

      Could that also be used for some imaginative accounting? Just wondering.

  22. swampdog

    Never lend your own kit either.. won't get it back. At one authority we used my own gigabit switch because some fool had decided to save some cash by reusing a defunct server room netgear 10/100 switch before the gigabit wall socket. We were to transfer a lot of data over the weekend so in went my switch. Friday afternoon, we set the job off and left for the weekend.

    Come Monday, the weekend staff had inserted themselves into my switch.

  23. Badbob

    Same goes for lots of public services.

    At my employer, we have to buy everything through our own "iProcurement" system and some of the prices are eyewatering and the lead time ridiculous.

    I bought a cheap canon digital camera for our engineers, £59 at Argos and available immediately, £110 to us and with a 5 day lead!!

    We can buy things out with iProc, but that's also laughable. One of my engineers spotted a new portable battery site light at a trade fair, and I agreed to lead procurement on one for each member of the team. I called the supplier and got a quote (about £69+VAT each) and told them I would put our purchasing team in touch. A day later I got a purchase order for them issued and the price had doubled, when I queried I was told, "overhead bias and internal approvals processes needed to be added". If have been better buying them myself and submitting expenses!

  24. PickledAardvark

    IT supplier contract experience

    At a former employer, I was offered the facility to buy my own kit (i.e. for personal use, paid by me) on the same terms as the organisation contract. The supplier deal was 5% markup on their purchase cost, free "basket" shipping to site once a day or pay for separate shipping.

    So I used it a couple of times with the basket shipment option. The deal was better than I could find anywhere else. *The price that you see in a supplier catalogue or web portal may not be what is charged to the organisation.* Sadly, for transparency and company moral, the individual making a purchase may not know the actual cost until s/he receives an internal invoice.

    IT suppliers such as Insight provide a good deal for popular items, if you have a contract. They keep older items in their catalogues -- which may become more expensive to buy as time goes on, so watch your step. They change catalogue numbers -- so your link to a cheap USB stick may suddenly become a link to the expensive USB stick which is retained for customers wishing to buy the legacy item for a good reason. Search every time you look in an online catalogue.

    Beware of scare stories about IT departments paying eight times the price for commodities such as toner/ink cartridges, USB flash drives etc. It means that the person filling in the *survey* didn't read it properly or take it seriously. The expression "eight times the price" usually means "S/he actually bought ten of them".

  25. Chris Jasper

    Maybe more sinister......?

    Julius Levinson: You don't actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe more sinister......?

      "$30,000 on a toilet seat"

      For some of the Americans I have seen, it makes sense...Probably included a crane.

  26. fruitoftheloon

    Equal stupidity at Network Rail

    A little while ago, whilst on a commercial related role for a LARGE programme for Network Rail (£xBn), I asked why something that was having a fence put around it needed five gates (@ £1,600 EACH), I was advised 'it was a typo', funnily enough I found lots of typos and things that by an amazing coincidence did not even f'ing remotely add up...

    A little while later a senior manager gave me some 'friendly' advice' about how I may want to carry out my role.

    Shortly thereafter I bowed out due to stress.

    Re the HS2 debacle-to-be, from my experience of Network Rails' institutional stupidity and inherent dislike of providing 'value for money' the losses due to fraud and incompetence will be mind-boggingly amazing.

    Items I heard of being:

    - NR building something on land they didn't own, then finding that the owner of said land held them to ransom

    - due to the nature of having fixed-fees agreed for certain types of legal work, the managers/contractors would decide how to divvy up any dosh that was left, I am sure that NONE of that ever got back to any NR staff

    - Doing a survey and somehow MISSING A BRIDGE that crossed a river

    - Do a full plan and cost budget for installing some BIG expensive widgets, but FORGETTING to like, y'know put the power in place...



    1. Lotaresco

      Re: Equal stupidity at Network Rail

      " the losses due to fraud and incompetence will be mind-boggingly amazing."

      Getting held to ransom for wayleaves seems to be standard for all of the transport and telecoms sector. People tend to forget that electricity or cables are required and look all confused when someone points out the omission.

  27. Rezillo

    Having worked in a local authority, these questionnaires from third parties are hardly ever filled in by someone at a senior level, if they are filled in at all. At best, some poor clerical grade worker will have been given it and a printout or access to the relevant finance codes and told to sort it out and if they're lucky, someone senior might actually read the results before signing and sending it out. Unless it's statutory, these things are at the bottom of the priority heap for most local government managers.

    On the junior employee's screen will not be the invoice details but something like "Item quantity: 1, Item description: SD card(s), cost: X pounds" and 1 and X gets put in the boxes. Could have been 1 card or 1 pack of 20 cards or a 100 of them for all we know. Seen too much of this to be surprised and the recipients rarely query obvious errors - they just publish it anyway.

  28. herman Silver badge

    Minimum order quantity

    It gets interesting when you need one of something and the minimum order quantity is 10,000.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £285 for an IEC lead.

    Yeah. A certain government department paid £285 for same day delivery of a bog standard 1.5M IEC mains lead.

    1. Pedigree-Pete

      Re: £285 for an IEC lead.

      Didn't the office have a kettle? PP

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yea gods

    I've just done a user upgrade in a local school. Part of the final testing is the standard 'print a test page'. The printer complains it's out of ink. I mention this to the user, asking if they have any replacement ink. "No, it's been like that for months, we're not allowed to order replacements".

    Please please, Reg, add a head->wall icon.

  31. toplard

    Yes. Rent Seeking like this is the only way to guarantee profits. And tax free in the end. Everyone aspires to economic rents in some shape or form. Its a personal call as to whether or not you consider it a moral hazard, particularly given its all perfectly legal. And government is the prime source of economic rents - they collect all the taxation after all.

  32. Mikel

    Margin is an odd measure

    How is this margin calculated? Do they know how much the supplier paid?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As many have said, being locked into contracts is often the case. I worked in the public sector and more than half our servers were HP. We also had our hardware support carried out by an external company. That company then got bought up by HP. So now we have a route straight into HP via an existing company and we discover that we can get servers at least 10% cheaper than before. But we can't. Because this breaks the rules for open tendering. So we keep paying more.

  34. Diogenes

    Internal Purchases

    When I were a younger tacker I worked for a large computer manufacturer that also had a global software arm (hint an AI is named after a former CEO - Think! about it :-) )

    We had brand new IBM (oops) 486 delivered with a whopping 32mb RAM to run Win2K. Our 300 page design spec took 20 minutes to open, one intrepid SE privately purchased another 32mb stick, to double the RAM and had it open in 30 secs.

    PM submits request to procurement -

    response OK $592 each ,

    response to procurement - we can get them from Dick Smith for $120 each full price, and the qty we require will drop the price to $99 each.

    Procurement - ah , but are they standard IBM part# 123 , negative parity ? -

    Response Yes, and they will be drop shipped directly from YOUR warehouse -

    response - buy any of those and you will be sacked.

    PM's responses which was then emulated by many other PMs, document the time difference between 20 minutes and 30 seconds for each developer & internally charge procurement for the time wasted, Escalate to State Manager when charge disputed.

    Result 30 sticks 32mb sticks delivered next day at a cost to the project of $90 a stick

  35. bitmap animal

    You're missing the point

    One thing most of you are not considering is the value of your time and the affect random buying can have on a business. If you need to go out to local shop to get something you are not doing your job for an hour, when you come back with the receipt someone has to process your expenses and split the VAT, someone has to deal with going back to the shop if the part fails in six months time, someone has to sort out the problems because the desktop roll-out image no longer works as you've bought a card with a different chip-set, someone has to ensure they can get spare parts in five years time. The list is endless.

    You are not paid to be a shopping assistant. You ask for a part, [in theory] it magically appears. For a business it is very difficult to keep track of items bought ad hoc.

    Looking just at the raw purchase price rather than the overall cost to the company is naive and blinkered. Yes, there are many instances where it can go wrong and you can point out where there are problems, but overall buying like this can have a lot of benefits to people looking at the overall effect on the company.

    1. Lotaresco

      Re: You're missing the point

      "One thing most of you are not considering is the value of your time and the affect random buying can have on a business."

      Oh if only it worked as you imagine.

      Yes ad hoc purchases are a royal PITA for a business but the performance to buy via most purchasing groups is time consuming and expensive. Typically I have to complete four paper forms in order to kick off the process of buying something. Also typically there will be no contract in place to cover the sort of items that I need to buy so I will also have to raise forms to justify buying something that isn't in the catalogue. I will have to research the available suppliers and provide the full spec for the kit to the purchasing group who will then go to the approved supplier(s) to see if they can source it. This can take two weeks.

      Travel is even worse. I have to do all the research to find suitable airports, airlines, hotels and then submit another four forms to justify the travel which is then passed to the approved travel agent.

      Recently I booked a day of work in Paris. The return flight is £100, the hotel I chose (one I like and also just across the road from our Paris office) costs £52 a night. The e-tickets arrived and they had prices on them. The air fare is £400, the hotel £199. If I had booked direct I could check-in on-line and print my tickets or use my phone app. I have a paper form that I have to take to the airport ticket office in order to receive a ticket. So inconvenient, expensive and inferior service.

  36. Evilgoat_2


    Transistor bases and jumper caps. Both came in lots of 1000. New admin girl interpreted 1000 at 1000 bags. Most perplexed when a very small Verospeed order arrived in a number of large boxes. They are probobly still going through them 20 years on.

  37. Tezfair

    why i hated being a sales man

    I once worked in a computer shop in the late 90's and an old chap came in one evening wanting a CDrom audio cable (remember them?). There was no price but thought it was only a few quid. Shop owner said £25. I tried to tell the old man quietly to wait until the following day and go to a bigger store in town, but he was desperate for it and brought it.

    Never been so embarrassed to sell something.

  38. martinusher Silver badge

    Its not just the council

    Although its fashionable to knock government agencies for being overcharged they're not the only victims, just the most likely because of they are bound by law to specific procurement regimes. In the rough and tumble of the commercial world we're all lean 'n mean, right?

    No. The most egregious example of a memory card rip-off that I know of came from a 'well known Austrian supplier of industrial automation equipment'. Their products include a PLC -- essentially a single board computer in a plastic box -- which uses a compact flash card. Their price for a replacement 1GByte CF card is $450. To be fair, products are overpriced because of the overhead involved in the overall business but as a long term business model it is doomed.

    Incidentally, trying to be creative in government can lead to problems. A smaller city in our area needed a city manager, the previous one(s) having been nailed for corruption or something like that. They got creative and hired a local resident, an ex-aerospace executive, for $140K a year. They immediately caught flak, legal and otherwise, for not going about their recruitment properly. Obviously they were supposed to hire some other city manager (probably fired for corruption, incompetence or whatever) at a salary of three times that, someone 'with experience of local government'. That's how the revolving door works, in government as well as industry -- once you're on the circuit its a gravy train for life with the fact that everyone else is being screwed being irrelevant because its being done *properly*.

  39. Mandoscottie

    its not just in public sector :)

    ive seen so many screwups with buying kit for stupid money its scary, our companies best one involved raw materials for one of our products, the MBR states add x amount of refined sugar (made from sugar cane)

    So our logistics dept talks to Asda and Tesco, re purchasing 5 pallets of sugar. Asda was cheapest, so they duly ordered the pallets.

    It wasnt until the forklift filled our stores area, that their IT engineer noticed, erm thats <insert non tate & lyle or silver spoon sugar brand here) made with sugar beet, not sugar cane there is a difference!

    Im pretty sure for years we all got bags of sugar to take home, and due to logistics having to put an expiry date on all stock" 2 pallets went to landfill.....errr sugar is a PRESERVATIVE!!! there is no best before date LOL clowns!

    And they wonder why I dont let them order tech kit for me....really?

    1. Lotaresco

      Re: its not just in public sector :)

      "made with sugar beet, not sugar cane there is a difference!"

      No there isn't. Although produced from different plant species both produce sucrose. The sucrose is purified and crystalised and white sugar is chemically pure sucrose. The only differences between the two are isotopic which does not affect the chemical characteristics of the sugar. Silver Spoon is made by British Sugar and is produced from sugar beet. The IT engineer seems to have been talking through his trousers. The only issue could have been one of marketing if the product were labelled as containing cane sugar. However surely no company would be that stupid?

      1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

        Re: its not just in public sector :)

        Only sugar made with sugar cane is approved by the Vegetarian society (traditional refining processes for sugar beet use animal products). So if this was a veggie product that needed the logo for marketing, I can see this would be a problem.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Competition not good for the little guy either

    Once worked at a goverment controlled company. They had to get quotes for a bunch of new kit. The system manufacturer gave them a decent quote. They then decided to get a quote from a local PC supply business, which was cheaper, so far so good. Rules state they had to go back to manufacturer, who now hugely undercut the local business who couldn't even buy the same kit for that sum. Good deal for taxpayer but perhaps it would still be better to spread it around the local area.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it pays to have a conversation...

    AC: when I was working for my first local authority, I had to re-order 'final demand rates' stationery - continuous sprocket feed, red print, with a 7" 'drop'.

    I dutifully put it out to my three stationery suppliers, one of whom (A) always got the order and the other 2 wanted stupid money. I asked one of the other salesmen (B) why they were so expensive. He said to me that, because supplier A already had a 7" roller on their printer, they could do the job with minimum setup costs. However, that was non-standard and most printers could offer 4/6/8" drops but would have to buy-in a 7" roller. or something like that.

    Well, the following year, I redesigned the form for a 6" drop and resubmitted the tender. Salesman B won it with a much reduced price.

    The local authority I most recently worked for had a really good tendering process and I think we always got pretty good value for money for the ratepayers. However, I'm back in the private sector now and the procurement system here is a labyrinth within a byzantine system compared to local government! I can't name names this week, hence AC

  42. Dixx

    Interesting. Equipping the (Public Sector) IT Department with purchasing cards was one way around the problem. Then they could pop into PC World and get the simple things in life at their retail price.

  43. vlc

    Other People's Money

    This is much worse more frequent than this article implies. And their easy over-simplistic solution is austerity.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A few years ago I worked for a government agency, now privatised. One day a message arrived saying that our then process of booking accommodation via the department secretary must cease and all accommodation would be booked by the new internal travel agency. Very quickly we noticed two things. The first was how incredibly slow the new system was. The next was that we only got to use one hotel chain no matter how inconvenient that might be. For example I had to travel to Teeside to do some work. The hotel that I was given details of was near Durham, 18 miles away from where the work was being done. To add insult to injury there was a hotel within walking distance of the site.

    I went back to base at the end of the job and went to the travel office to complain. No one there. Someone told me that I wouldn't see the staff until the next day because they were all having a "Spa Day" at a hotel owned by the "preferred" hotel chain.

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