Whitehall ‘still paying too much for basic supplies’
By Richard Johnstone | 14 September 2012
Some government departments are still paying ‘over the odds’ for basic supplies such as paper and energy, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
The pressure group’s analysis of procurement costs, based on Whitehall’s own spending data, found that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spent the most for a standard box of A4 paper. It paid £12.43 per box of 2,500 sheets – £3.50 more than the best performing department, the Department of Health, which paid £8.93. Most other departments paid more than £2 above the DoH’s price.
The DBIS also paid the most for energy, forking out an average of £110 per megawatt hour. It was closely followed by the Department for Transport, the Department for Education and the Home Office. They all paid at least £50 more an hour than the £34 paid by the best performing department, the Ministry of Defence.
The Taxpayer’s Alliance report, Departmental procurement costs, is based on the figures released by each ministry for the fourth quarter of 2011, apart from the DBIS, whose figures come from the third quarter.
Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said that taxpayers would be ‘astounded at the discrepancies that remain between government departments in the cost of these basics’.
He added: ‘Those running departments need to be able to show that they can keep costs down on smaller items of expenditure if people are to have faith that they can secure the best deals when it comes to multimillion pound projects.
Differences in departments' basic spending were identified by Sir Philip Green in October 2010. His procurement review revealed that the government wastes billions of pounds through poor commodity purchasing, property use and the letting of major contracts.
Responding to the TPA report, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman insisted the government had made ‘impressive strides in two years’ in reducing waste.
‘Last year alone we saved a staggering £5.5bn of taxpayers’ money – the equivalent of £500 for every working household,’ she added.
‘But let’s be clear: the battle is not yet over and there is still too much resistance by some departments to centralising spending and making further efficiencies through radical reform. We are determined to go further and make even greater savings in future.’