A statement from The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts
Police procurement is fragmented across the 43 police forces in England and Wales. The huge range of definitions for basic items is mind boggling. It is unbelievable that something as simple as a high-visibility jacket has 20 different specifications, with associated prices that differ by as much as £80. Instead of focusing money on tackling crime, police forces are wasting resources disagreeing over how many pockets they should have on their uniforms.
Recent efforts to address these problems by centralising procurement have been weak. The Home Office failed to hit its target that all police forces use its central procurement hub by June 2012. By January this year, only 43% were doing so. The Home Office tried to put its foot down in 2011 and demand that some items must be procured through national frameworks, but there is no evidence this has improved value for taxpayers’ money. It is not clear how the Home Office can even enforce these requirements. I find it ironic that efforts to simplify governance structures have ended up with a complex web of stakeholders and blurred lines of responsibility. There is a clear tension between centralising procurement to achieve value for money and passing on greater powers to Police and Crime Commissioners, which the Home Office is struggling to deal with.
Police procurement is big money, £1.7 billion in 2010-11, yet the Home Office can’t judge whether it is getting good value for money. The Home Office needs to work more collaboratively with police forces to identify and drive improvements in procurement. It also needs to make responsibilities clear and get a handle on the data so it can assure itself that opportunities to make savings are maximised.