Consortia reject UK favourite

July 20, 2001

Universities and colleges are upset at no longer being able to buy computers from a British company since its exclusion from three purchasing consortia.

London-based Dan Technologies has been selling desktop computers to institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge universities and Canterbury Christ Church College, for several years.

The London Universities Purchasing Consortium acted on behalf of two others: the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium and Scotland's Joint Consultative and Advisory Committee on Purchasing. It considered firms with an annual turnover greater than £50 million when it renegotiated contracts earlier this year. Dan's turnover is about £43 million. Dan is approved by the government adviser of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency to sell computers to schools.

Institutions covered by the three consortia must now choose from five companies, two of which are American. John Ritchie, director of the London consortium, said the expected spend by the three groupings was £60 million.

The £50 million figure equalled 20 per cent of each company's turnover, which he said ensured it had sufficient commercial capacity to serve customer institutions.

Other consortia had set that figure at 15 or even 10 per cent of turnover, according to Mr Ritchie.

Sue Davis, education manager at Dan Technologies, said the decision would cost the firm millions of pounds in lost business and was not in Britain's economic interest.

Some institutions have gone to great lengths to continue dealing with Dan. Duncan Edwards, purchasing officer for Bournemouth and Poole College, said staff had been happy with the reliability of Dan and its after-sales service and were upset by the decision.

The college found a solution by ordering Dan products through GCat, the government information technology catalogue.

But Mr Edwards said it had taken time and effort to get around the problem created by consortia that should make purchasing simpler.

Ms Davis said Dan had protested without success to former learning and technology minister Michael Wills and former education secretary David Blunkett, as well as MP Paul Boateng.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesperson said it had no jurisdiction over the procurement policies of institutions or their partner consortia. "They are contracting authorities in their own right and have a direct responsibility that they comply with their legal obligations."

Mr Ritchie said he was willing to discuss ways that the consortia could collaborate with Dan Technologies in the future.

The successful suppliers were Dell, Compaq, Viglen, Tiny and RM.

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