Headlines: December 1st, 2000

The target of purchasing 90% of goods electronically by 2001 has spurred on departments and agencies to make greater use of the Government Procurement Card. The card, which is run by Via International, was introduced in 1997 and in the first two years it was used for transactions worth13.4 million pounds. At the launch it was claimed that it could save the taxpayer some 70 million pounds annually.Use of the card increased almost 300% in the last year with the transaction total rising to 44 million pounds and the number of departments and agencies using it increasing from 44 to 115. Low value ordering makes up 80% of the purchasing transactions conducted by Government and there is now a general recognition that the card offers one of the best options for meeting the target.

Card purchasing is not totally electronic because the buyer keeps a paper record of each purchase which has to be countersigned by a line manager before being passed to the finance department. It is much quicker and simpler than the traditional process which in many cases involves a nine part multicoloured form that customers provide to suppliers.

In a move to help departments and agencies to assess progress towards the 90% electronic procurement target, the Office for Government Commerce has devised a model which sets out definitions and a calculation structure. The model makes it clear, for example, that telephone and fax are no longer classified as electronic transactions. The model can be used by any public sector organisation and copies can be obtained from Mike Killin on 020 7211 1319.