Saturday, 3 November 2012

Anyone want 2,400 laptops?: A cautionary tale of shared procurement.

It could be a very good time to buy a cheap laptop; but would you want 2,400?  If you do, now's the time to contact Torfaen Council in Wales.

Believing they were buying laptops on behalf of three councils, they discovered that one of their partners did not share that view. The council which opted out of the purchase claim they hadn't made any commitment as it was their view the business case didn't stack up:
At no point did the city council make a formal commitment to the project and we were surprised when we learned that Torfaen had undertaken this procurement.
I suspect that all three councils will think twice before their next purchasing collaboration.

This should not be viewed as a case against collaborative purchasing, but instead a demonstration of the need to have clear written agreements in place between partners prior to entering into any contractual agreement with the market.

Perhaps, the impact could also have been reduced had they merely entered into a framework arrangement with no commitment to purchase. The strange thing is that previous questions, which appear to relate to the same contract, seem to suggest that no confirmed quantities had been given:
... in reference to the 400 unit figure quoted in the original tender, that suppliers were told that this was no indication of the number of units it would purchase in future... We told suppliers the quantity of laptops that we had purchased in the previous financial year and advised that there was no guaranteed usage for the contract period.
If this relates to the same laptop contract then things could get even more messy since there were issues raised previously regarding the mini-competition evaluation approach with the projected demand being a clincher in the award.

It is not clear if Torfean's supplier has taken any steps to support the council in reducing the impact through selling on their behalf, but if you happen to see 2,400 unused laptops, just out of warranty, on eBay or Gumtree, this may be a good time to contact the seller direct.

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