The National Audit Office has urged further education colleges to make more use of e-procurement as part of improving their purchasing.
England’s 384 FE colleges spend £1.6bn a year on goods and services, but many need to improve their processes substantially, the government spending watchdog said in its report, Improving procurement in further education colleges in England.
It recommended that colleges review their existing mix of procurement methods against good practice benchmarks, noting, “Colleges’ general awareness of methods such as e-procurement is reasonably high, but awareness of the possible extent of use, and actual use of the methods, is low,” the report says.
The NAO found that 40% of colleges said they used e-procurement. But when the auditors explored its use during college visits, “we found that in practice it might amount only to occasional purchases on the web, rather than regular, planned use of e-procurement”, the report says.
Colleges’ procurement was also suffering because of poor management information, the NAO found. The report says: “Three-quarters of colleges responding to our survey did not provide any information on their spending for the categories in our survey.”
Colleges should review their data on procurement and how it can be better analysed to provide useful management information, the NAO recommended.