IN 2015-16, public bodies in Wales spent around £6 billion through procurement on a range of goods, services and works but need to improve their performance to ensure value for money.
That’s the message of wide-ranging report from the Wales Audit Office (WAO), which suggests that the existing procurement process provides no more than mixed results.
In a changing landscape, public bodies face challenges in balancing potentially competing procurement priorities, responding to new policy, legislation and technology, and in the recruitment and retention of key personnel.
The Welsh Government’s 2015 policy statement sets out the overriding principles for public procurement, in the context of relevant EU and UK procurement legislation.
However, the WAO report has found that national governance arrangements could be strengthened, with the national procurement board currently having limited effectiveness.
Of the £6 billion spent through procurement in 2015-16, £880 million was through collaborative procurement managed by the three main Wales-based consortia and public buying organisations. While these organisations are reporting financial savings and other benefits, public bodies have mixed views on their effectiveness.
The report also highlights clear scope for improvement in procurement arrangements at a local level. Public bodies have experienced several notable procurement failures and our audit work continues to identify examples of other weaknesses.
New legislation – including the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – presents new challenges and despite some investment by the Welsh Government, public bodies continue to have problems in recruiting and retaining qualified procurement personnel.
Developments in technology present opportunities to make procurement processes more efficient but are not yet being used consistently.
The report makes eight recommendations on issues including:
- Membership of the national Procurement Board – the Welsh Government plans to merge this board with the National Procurement Service board.
- Regular review by public bodies of their procurement strategies and polices to ensure that these stay up to date with the changing landscape.
- The scope of any future Procurement Fitness Checks – the Welsh Government has been planning to roll out a new programme of checks.
- For the Welsh Government to explore the impact of differential pay for procurement staff across different sectors and any potential solutions.
Auditor General, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said: “Procurement is one of the key ways in which public bodies need to be able to demonstrate that they are securing value for money. Our findings are clear: while public bodies face a range of challenges in a changing procurement landscape, they can do more to strengthen their procurement arrangements and recent examples highlight the financial and reputational risks of getting procurement wrong.”
The Chair of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, Nick Ramsay AM, said: “The Committee has been concerned by recent examples of poor procurement practice and this report emphasises the significant amount of money spent each year by public bodies through their procurement activity.
“There are clearly opportunities to ensure better value for money, not just by avoiding obviously poor practice but also by maximising wider benefits from contracts where possible.
“Public bodies need to ensure that they have access to the commercial skills necessary to manage potentially complex procurement activity and it is concerning that, despite some investment by the Welsh Government, public bodies are still facing difficulties recruiting and retaining the skills they need.
“The Committee will be considering the findings in this report and in the separate report that the Auditor General is preparing about the National Procurement Service over the coming weeks.”
Greens announce candidate in Ceredigion
CEREDIGION Green Party has selected local community councillor Chris Simpson as their candidate in the upcoming General Election on 12th December. Chris, who moved to Aberystwyth in 1982 and who recently retired from his post as Consultant Pathologist said,
“Politics has been a major part of my life for the last 40 years, working in the Green Party locally and nationally. Finally the Climate Crisis is beginning to get the attention it deserves. We need to act now to rapidly decarbonise our economy and adapt society accordingly. We can’t put this off any longer if we want to leave a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren. I am very proud to represent the Green Party at this crucial time in politics.”
Vital that young people engage in politics
Caleb Rees makes speech to Welsh Youth Parliament
Welsh Youth Parliament Member for Ceredigion, Caleb Rees, has called on young people to take part in politics in a speech to the Welsh Youth Parliament last week.
Caleb Rees said that the ‘wave of young people’ taking part in climate change protests showed that there is an appetite to take part in politics.
“Without a doubt, climate change is going to affect our future and our entire generation and so it was wonderful to see so many young people from all parts of Wales such as Aberystwyth and Ceredigion taking part.
“Personally, this is important to us as a Youth Parliament because it demonstrates young people’s interest in politics and most importantly young people’s willingness to speak out and express their opinions.
“This ties in with the National Assembly’s intention to lower the voting age to 16 years of age, demonstrating that young people in Wales are genuinely interested in having their say and taking part in the political process.
“It is vital that we as members of the First Youth Parliament do our level best to encourage any young person to take part in politics in some way, be it over climate change or not.”
Elin Jones AM for Ceredigion said, “As Caleb said in his speech, more and more young people are seeing the importance of engaging with the political process. This upcoming election will be another opportunity for young people to set out the kind of Ceredigion, and world they want to live in.
“I’m glad that the National Assembly for Wales is proposing to see the voting age reduced to 16 for the next Welsh elections, but unfortunately this is not the case for Westminster.
“I look forward to more inspiring contributions by the Welsh Youth Parliament, including more from Caleb, who is a great spokesperson for Ceredigion.”
First Minister calls for a second EU referendum
THE FIRST MINISTER of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has called for a second EU referendum in response to the imminent change in Conservative leadership.
After the results of the European Parliamentary Elections were announced, Mr Drakeford issued a statement, saying: “I warmly congratulate Jackie Jones on her election as a member of the European Parliament. Jackie, along with Matthew [Dorrance], Mary [Wimbury] and Mark [Whitcutt] served our party as candidates in what has been the most challenging of circumstances.
“Ever since the referendum in 2016, the Welsh Government has respected the result by arguing for a form of Brexit which would protect Welsh jobs and our economy. Labour colleagues in Westminster have done the same, most recently in negotiations with the UK Government.
“The election of a new Conservative leader changes all of that. It eliminates the chances of any agreed form of Brexit and it hugely increases the very real danger of a catastrophic no-deal exit from the EU. We cannot and will not stand by while that takes place.
“Faced with the damage of a hardline Tory Brexit, Welsh Labour believes that the final decision must be made by the public in a referendum. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, a Welsh Labour Government would campaign, in such a vote, for Wales to remain in the EU.
“We will work with any others who seek the same outcome.”
Last Thursday (May 24), Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will quit as leader of the Conservatives on June 7, with it thought that a new leader could be in place by the end of July.
Many believe the party will elect a right wing leader who would be willing to propose a no deal Brexit, although there has been a majority against that option when Parliament voted on it before. Brexit policy was also key to the European Parliamentary Elections, where the Labour Party failed to attract votes, with its lead candidate Jackie Jones narrowly taking the final MEP seat in Wales.
The party claimed just 15.3% of the vote in Wales and 14.1% UK wide, with many pointing at the party’s indecision regarding its stance over Brexit as the reason for the loss of voters.
Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been criticised by many in his party over his reluctance to openly support another referendum, as he attempted to appease both remain and leave voters with his Brexit policy. Mr Drakeford had been similarly reluctant to definitively back another referendum, but with this statement has gained the support of many in the party who wish for a second vote.
The European election results were also poor for the Conservatives, getting just 6.5% of the vote in Wales, and 9.09% across the UK. Governments often perform poorly in European elections, as the public express their disappointment with the ruling party, but this was the Conservatives’ worst ever result in a nationwide election by some way.
The party did not manage to come first in a single council area. The Brexit Party gained 32.5% of the vote in Wales, with Nathan Gill and James Wells claiming two of the country’s four MEP seats for Nigel Farage’s party. Plaid Cymru won 19.6% of the vote, with Jill Evans retaining her seat as Plaid beat Labour for the first time in a Wales-wide vote.
Andrew RT Davies, AM for South Wales Central and former leader of the Welsh Conservative Party, said: “The European Elections proved extremely difficult for the two major parties, but a second referendum is certainly not the answer. Labour promised to respect the Brexit vote, but rerunning the referendum would completely tear up this pledge.
“Regrettably, the First Minister has buckled at the first sign of discontent from his Labour colleagues who have been in denial ever since the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union back in 2016. That’s not leadership.
“People in Wales voted to leave and that should be respected and now delivered – anything else will have severe consequences for democracy as we know it in this country.”
In the 2016 referendum, Wales saw a turnout of 71.7% of its eligible voters, with 52.53% voting to leave and 47.47% voting to remain.
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