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Educating the buyers

Tuesday November 3rd, 2009

By Ken May, Director, ESPO

In the last in a series of articles, Ken May from ESPO speaks to GO about how it felt to win in the Education category of last year’s SOPO Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Procurement.

In 2007, the Eastern Shires Purchasing Authority (ESPO) was engaged by Norfolk County Council, Milton Keynes Council and Southend-on-Sea Council to run and manage a procurement exercise to identify and appoint a provider of a new Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

The VLE required was to be a web based, hosted and managed learning environment mainly for secondary schools but potentially for primary schools as well. ESPO ran the project with Norfolk County Council (Children’s Services) as the lead authority, working in collaboration with Milton Keynes and Southend-on-Sea along with the E2BN Broadband Consortium. Ideally, the councils wished to explore the benefits of bringing together their requirements; however, they reserved the right to review the outcome of the tender exercise before committing to participate.

Following a competitive procurement exercise, which followed the restricted procedure, contracts for all three councils were awarded to Frontier UK Ltd. The contract commenced in time for the new academic year in September 2008, and will be in place for an initial period of three years, with all councils having the option to extend for a further two years, if they so wish.

The contract has been left open for use by other authorities in the Eastern region – the county councils of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, and the unitary authorities of Luton, Peterborough and Thurrock. Mindful of the local government reorganisation that is currently taking place in the region, the invitation to tender included provision for any new authorities resulting from restructuring during the contract period to also have access to the contract.

The potential annual value of the contract for Norfolk County Council is some £900,000 over the initial three-year period, depending on the actual mix and scale of services procured by the council. For the other two authorities, the sums will be broadly pro rata, totalling some £470,000 over the same period. These sums include quantifiable cost savings arising from the aggregated award of contract made possible by the collaborative approach to procurement adopted by the three authorities.

ESPO has put in place a considerable number of innovative framework contracts specifically focused on meeting the needs of the education sector, so it was pleasing to hear at the SOPO Awards Gala Dinner from Ian Taylor of the Department for Children, Schools and Families that the award to ESPO was particularly well deserved.

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