Massive changes to Buying Solutions, the government’s public sector procurement organisation, are expected this month [March] after a five-month review by new boss John Collington.
Although the Cabinet Office is giving nothing away, there are fears that Buying Solutions will be slimmed down to provide services only to central government, and even that it may be scrapped altogether.
Another industry rumour doing the Business Travel & Meetings Show [BTMS] rounds was that Buying Solutions’ travel companies will have to re-apply for their “preferred supplier” status – a ranking they were awarded only last September.
Carlson Wagonlit Travel, one of the biggest names on the government’s roster of travel specialist, confirmed that it was aware of the rumours, but declined to comment further as senior management figures were locked into an internal conference in Dubai.
Mark Bowers, joint chief executive of Bradford-based Redfern Travel – also part of the Buying Solutions framework – told Buying Business Travel: “There are all sorts of rumours flying about, but the real problem is that nobody will tell us what is going on.
“Some people are saying we are all going to have to re-tender in June – it will be much the same thing, re-written and re-hashed, but the whole process will cost millions of pounds.
“The other big worry is that Buying Solutions will become the procurement vehicle for central government only. That means that something like 3,500 local authorities and wider public sector bodies will be putting their travel out to tender individually – which will mean we will be confronted with a huge increase in RFPs.”
Collington, who was appointed executive director of procurement at the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) last September, and David Shields, procurement delivery director for Buying Solutions, were scheduled to complete their review last month [February] following a damning report by retail guru Sir Philip Green.
A Cabinet Office statement simply said: “Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, has stated that the Sir Philip Green review strongly reinforced the need to push forward quickly with the work that he had already begun on centralising category procurement.
“This work remains at the heart of the government agenda for procurement, and a transformed Buying Solutions will take its place at the centre of this work. The review now commissioned will examine in more detail how this role will be fulfilled, and how Buying Solutions will operate as a key part of the centralised category procurement programme.
“Customers and suppliers will be informed of the outcome of the review in due course. In the meantime, Buying Solutions will continue to work closely with customers and suppliers and all existing operations remain unchanged.”