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Procurement advice is offered free of charge by many Professional Buying Organisations

Why are schools paying for procurement advice?

ESPO warns against schools wasting money on consultancy services when free help is available

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 07, 2015 | Law, finance, HR

Lack of time and complicated tender processes are just two of the reasons that schools don’t always make the best buying decisions, claims public sector purchasing organisation ESPO. 

With limited time and resources to dedicate to procurement, an increasing number of schools and academies are turning to the services of expensive consultants, in many cases paying them several thousand pounds in fees or charges, to help purchase services such as catering and IT support.

These findings were revealed in research conducted at a series of Smart Procurement Education Workshops hosted by ESPO in conjunction with the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM). 

The survey was completed by almost 200 delegates, highlighting that increased workloads and responsibilities are preventing schools from spending adequate time searching for best value products and services and ensuring compliant purchasing processes.

Academies in particular are under strain as many, some for the first time, are having to get to grips with the procurement of essential services such as cleaning, grounds maintenance, HR and legal services that were previously provided by the local authority.

Simon Herne, business development manager - education at ESPO, said: “Without exception, every attendee at our Smart Procurement Workshops cited time constraints as the main reason they were not always able to make effective buying decisions.

“We’re concerned that some schools feel the need to pay fees to professional consultants to help them with large or complex procurements when free options to help them through the process are available to them.

“We’re keen for schools to wake up to the procurement advice services offered free of charge by many Professional Buying Organisations (PBOs). A PBO can work directly with a school or academy to help them save money, cut the time needed for procuring significant purchases and reduce the procurement risk that finance teams and teachers are often exposed to.”

PBOs like ESPO are experts at working with schools and other public sector organisations and their primary purpose is to supply goods and services and create frameworks that enable time-strapped school business managers to save time on valuable staff resources and money. 

Supply frameworks, offering services from photocopiers to playground equipment, are a compliant and cost effective way of purchasing goods and services. They are agreements that set out the terms and conditions on which specific purchases can be made throughout the duration of the agreement term. They provide school business managers with access to a range of approved suppliers who have undergone a rigorous vetting process to ensure they provide their products and services at the best possible quality and value. 

The main advantage for schools of buying goods or services from an existing PBO framework is that the purchaser does not have to undertake the full, lengthy tender process to purchase what they need – the PBO has already provided a compliant route for them. This not only significantly reduces the time and costs and risks associated with tendering, but also means there is less downtime between identifying a need and fulfilling it.    

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