Going for a song: Wales inks £300m in deals after shopping spree for hardware, software, and audio-visual equipment

Public and voluntary sector welcome to buy from framework agreement winners

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Its place names may baffle fellow Brits, but money talks in Wales. The local National Procurement Service (NPS) has named the winners of a £300m framework deal for a public sector shopping trolley of IT services, hardware, software and consulting.

A host of Welsh public and voluntary sector organisations will be free to buy from the framework. They include UK government and its agencies, limited liability partnerships or other corporate entities that operate in Wales, the Welsh Assembly Commission, local authorities, schools, NHS trusts, higher and further education bodies, police forces, fire and rescue authorities, housing associations and national parks.

The contract award notice describes five lots addressing commodity hardware (£10m), other IT hardware (£150m), solutions (£40m) software licensing and subscriptions (£90m), and audio-visual equipment (no figure given, but we assume it's the remaining £10m).

The contract award notice lists more than 30 firms among the winners. They include Computacenter, Dell, Lenovo, and software resellers such as Phoenix Software and Softcat.

Framework agreements are designed to save the public purse by increasing the volume among a small pool of pre-vetted suppliers. That, at least, is the theory.

The weaknesses in the model come from the fact that suppliers are not guaranteed that volume of work so are not always convinced to give their best prices. Meanwhile, buyers are not always aware of what framework deals may be available to them, making it difficult to drive up volume in the way deals anticipate. Some categories are covered by multiple deals, while it can be difficult to prevent "rogue" tendering outside the deals.

Established in 2013, the Welsh government's NPS was intended to handle government and nonprofit contracts worth £1bn a year. But in 2018 the government decided to reduce its ambitions after the NPS made losses and had to be bailed out by ministers. ®

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