The BBC news website has this week run a story, which will also appear on Panorama, telling of the shocking story of how many unsuspecting schools have fallen foul of a leasing scam involving photocopiers and ICT equipment. Several schools have millions of pounds worth of debt - some of which the banks have thankfully written off as a gesture of goodwill - and have been left without much of the kit they had been promised when the two organisations in charge of the leading arrangement went bust.
Sadly, whilst this story is very distressing (given that ultimately it's the children who will suffer when budgets are cut), we are not completely surprised - experience of working with a large number of schools and colleges has shown that many are not managing their procurement functions effectively. We believe that there is a heightened risk now that large numbers of schools have become Academies, as they no longer work with local authorities' procurement teams and have are left to fend for themselves in an area where they may lack the skills and the economies of scale. Whilst we certainly don't believe that local authority procurement is necessarily in great shape, at least the old system had a degree of rigour and the opportunity for schools to join together and reduce costs. Schools need a procurement strategy in place to ensure that all stakeholders at the school, including Governors, Head Teachers, their staff and pupils' parents are clear about how procurement is being managed.
The Buying Support Agency has established strong links with the education sector to help ensure that when schools become Academies they are protected from scams like the one mentioned above. We have specialist procurement auditing and advisory skills which can be utilised to ensure that school bursar's have peace of mind that contracts are being placed in a way which maximises buying power and value for money yet reduces the supply chain risks.
by M Roper | 24 September 2012