NAO report criticises prisons IT procurement

A report from the National Audit Office has highlighted shortcomings in the Prison Service's IT strategy for procurement. The...

A report from the National Audit Office has highlighted shortcomings in the Prison Service's IT strategy for procurement. The report, Modernising Procurement within the Prison Service, said the organisation lacks common, service-wide IT support for purchase order processing and stock control.

In 2001, the Prison Service attempted to introduce an integrated purchase order processing and stock control system called Pop/Stock to enable orders to be processed electronically and to improve stock management. But the project has been postponed pending the introduction of "suitable IT infrastructure".

Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh said, "The Prison Service should continue to pursue the adoption of a service-wide IT system, not only to streamline procurement processes but also to facilitate the sharing of good practice between prisons."

The NAO report did predict, however, that a new intranet will improve communication within the service. It said, "Communication between the contracts and procurement unit and prisons is likely to be improved by the recent introduction of a service-wide intranet."

A Prison Service spokeswoman said, "We welcome the report and we are considering its recommendations."

The Prison Service spent £461m on supplies in 2001-2002. The report acknowledged that procurement practice has been improved through the centralisation of purchasing functions.

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