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The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has “consistently” failed to deliver quality services and cost savings, according to a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report.
The CCS was set up to centralise all purchasing, eliminate duplication and act as a single entity for all central government procurement.
But the PAC report said the organisation had not won departments’ confidence, and had only been able to manage £2.5bn of spend on behalf of seven departments, rather than the £13bn and 17 departments that had been predicted in 2014.
Last year, the CCS went live with the second iteration of its technology products and services framework – a “one-stop shop” for public sector organisations going out to tender for technology products. It is also responsible for the Digital Marketplace and G-Cloud.
But the PAC report said the CCS had yet to develop “a full business case and demonstrate how it will add value to departments”.
“Government can make substantial savings from buying common goods and services centrally, but the results of the government’s latest attempt to do so have been disappointing,” the PAC said.
The committee added: “All departments must understand the importance of achieving savings from centrally purchasing common goods and services, and transfer appropriate spending to the CCS as soon as practicable.”
PAC chair Meg Hillier said the government “really needs to sharpen up if this latest attempt to centralise buying is to function properly”.
Hillier said the CCS had been set up to save public money, but so far it had managed only about one-fifth of the spending expected to and was a long way from achieving its potential. “This is a dismal showing that calls into question exactly how willing government departments are to accept the authority of the Cabinet Office in this area,” she said.
“Is the case being made for CCS underwhelming, or is the message just not getting through? Is discipline across government too weak? There were clearly fundamental problems at the launch of CCS, but even now it is unclear exactly how progress will be made during this parliament and beyond.”
Last year, a National Audit Office report into the CCS found that the Cabinet Office had underestimated the difficulty of mandating and implementing joint buying across government departments and organisations. It also slammed the Cabinet Office for not being detailed enough in its implementation strategy and failing to track net costs and benefits.