Headlines: February 10th, 2004

The Office of Government Commerce plans to give central departments and agencies a powerful lever for procuring goods and services and getting better deals. Currently each organization operates independently and in an earlier study it was found that 180 bodies were dealing with the same supplier. The planned electronic government marketplace, known as Zanzibar – named after the island in the Indian Ocean which is the home of the oldest marketplace – is scheduled to start operating in 2005. The marketplace will be an eHub providing a single access point for suppliers and buyers to the government marketplace.The public sector is the largest buyer of goods and services in the country, but this purchasing power is not used to the best advantage. It is thought that the target for central departments and agencies to procure 90% of low value goods electronically by March 2001 has not yet been achieved. It is also doubtful that the Office for Government Commerce target to make savings of 1 billion pounds on central government procurement by 2005 will be achieved on time. Zanzibar is the flagship project to deliver these and other e-procurement targets.

Zanzibar will allow customers within departments and agencies to automate their procurement processes, view supplier catalogues with prices already negotiated and place orders. A management information tool will be available to facilitate customer collaboration which it is expected will bring further value for money improvements.

Some departments and agencies have already invested heavily in e-procurement tools and processes and Zanzibar will function in parallel with what is currently in place. For those organizations that have not yet invested, they will be provided with a ‘purchase to through to payment’ system which will be accessed through a web browser.

The possibility of extending the electronic government marketplace to other public bodies, including local councils, is being considered.

The feasibility study which resulted in the electronic marketplace project can be seen at http://www.ogc.gov.uk/embedded_object.asp?docid=1001432