An Introduction to Public Procurement



1. Purpose of the guidance

The public sector spends over £150 billion a year on the goods and services needed to deliver public services. To achieve value for money (VFM) for the taxpayer, effectively managed procurements – properly planned and executed – are essential.

This guidance sets out the key concepts and principles of good procurement and is intended for senior officials with limited experience of public procurement. Although it focuses primarily on activities in central departments and closely associated bodies, it is also relevant where central government provides commercial governance, advice or support to what is described here as the ‘wider network’ (i.e. all devolved public sector bodies, including those in health, education, local government and the emergency services).

The Introduction is a component of OGC’s Policy and Standards Framework which covers all the key procurement policies to which contracting authorities are expected to adhere as part of Transforming Government Procurement, which set out, in 2007, the Government’s priorities for public procurement reform.

Much of the Introduction is relevant to the process of “Commissioning”. Commissioning is where the public sector decides the services or service outcomes (e.g. in adult social care or children's services) or the products that it needs, acquires them and makes sure that they meet requirements. There is much debate about whether commissioning is synonymous with procurement or merely includes procurement. What is certain is that for procurement to be effective as a business tool, organisations need to cover the same activities as commissioning – identification of needs, acquisition and management of benefits – all of which are discussed in this document.

(An Introduction to Public Procurement)