Bread and dripping

October 11, 1996

William Martin (THES, September ) correctly points out the potential for savings through institutions taking full advantage of VAT zero-rating opportunities. He gives sound advice but it is only part of the purchasing opportunity story. Through more disciplined, not necessarily more bureaucratic, procurement methods a wide range of value for money improvements becomes realisable.

Non-staff costs (purchasing) in most higher education institutions account for over 40 per cent of total expenditure. New approaches to buying in capital items, capital projects and non-core business services could mean that the split of staff and non-staff costs moves closer to 50:50.

The increasing range and value of bought-in goods and services necessitate closer scrutiny than they (generally) receive. They constitute a continuing source of opportunity for senior management to apply some stretch to institutional resources and to alleviate some of the damage being caused by inadequate funding. Here is a "dripping roast" which features all too infrequently on the senior management menu.

DOUGLAS BELL Central purchasing coordinator Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals

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