09 June, 2012

The joys of procurement

You may have noticed that stories about so-called ‘government procurement cards’ have been in the news recently. Essentially these are credit cards that are issued to government departments in order to make the purchasing of small items quicker and easier. Unfortunately, some government employees have been misusing these cards to buy things like music downloads, stays at luxury hotels and, most bizarrely, doughnuts.

The place in which I work has such a card. As far as I am aware, no one has misused it, yet we are now no longer allowed to use it for any standard transactions. As an example, I need to buy an essential textbook for my team. In the past I would have been able to do this in a couple of minutes on Amazon using the card. BUT I am now forced to use an online government purchasing system in order to buy the book from a government-approved supplier.

A couple of interesting things about this:
  • the book is ten pounds more expensive (yes, that’s ten pounds more expensive) to purchase from the government-approved supplier than from Amazon; and
  • it took two weeks (yes, that’s two weeks) for our purchasing centre to issue me with login details that allowed me to access the government-approved supplier’s website and so purchase the book.
I always think it’s interesting to be aware of both sides of any story...

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