The failure of the antiquated accounting systems – resulting in only half of orders being handled electronically – was revealed in a report by the all-party Commons Treasury Committee, which complained of ‘over-optimism’ about what could be achieved.
Office of Government Commerce chief executive Peter Gershon, former managing director of Marconi Electronic Systems, complained that ‘some departments could never get anywhere near the 90% target until they modernised their financial and accounting systems’ which could not be solely driven by the needs of low value electronic procurement.
Gershon said the focus on the target had helped to flush out bottlenecks that could now be addressed.
MPs on the committee noted ‘that the target of purchasing 90% of low value goods and services by March 2001 ‘was missed by a large margin’ and ‘was probably unrealistic in the first place’.
They said OGC’s future targets ‘should be based on a more realistic assessment of what is achievable’ by departments and by the market.
The OGC estimated just over half of low value transactions were being conducted electronically. The Department of Health – not included under OGC’s remit – said they had achieved only 37% but the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions claimed to have reached 58% and said they would be capable of 100% by September, dependent on whether suppliers were up to speed.
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