The Department for Work and Pensions' open-source online purchasing system could provide the blueprint for broader public sector e-procurement, according to the Office of Government Commerce.
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Purchase & Pay, a Linux-based system, is being operated for the department by the OGC's commercial trading arm, OGCbuying.solutions. Although it was designed to enable the purchase of products such as printed forms and stationery, officials expect the system to be extended to cover a wider range of products and services.
OGC officials will also keep close tabs on Purchase & Pay as part of their strategy to develop fully interoperable e-procurement systems across government. The wider initiative will, eventually, allow all public sector departments and agencies to share information on suppliers and pricing.
Martin Sykes, executive director of OGC's e-Commerce Directorate, and the man responsible for driving forward the government's e-procurement strategy, said, "This work will give us access to valuable experience in the operation of open-source software, while contributing to the DWP's needs for improved efficiency and effectiveness."
Over the next few months, Purchase & Pay, which is run through the government's secure intranet, will be expanded to enable the payment of invoices online. The system, which went live in early February, is already responsible for handling more than 80% of the DWP's stationery buying.
As part of the initiative, the OGC is providing and evaluating secure online access to the various framework agreements and electronic catalogues managed by OGCbuying.solutions.
Framework agreements and electronic catalogues are the means by which civil central government and the wider public sector can access cost-effective pricing arrangements on products and services.