Police IT fighting for e-procurement

Another headache looms for Police Minister George Hawkins - and for front-line police officers.

Budget pressure which has seen Police asked to save money on cars and cellphones could deny them a system that would speed delivery of their uniforms and notebooks.

All those competing demands on a stretched Police budget may mean no funding next year for the completion of a full e-commerce B2B system for the department, even though the amount at issue looks to be only about $250,000.

The e-procurement development needs to compete with demands on capital from everywhere else in Police, says national procurement manager Stan Pope.

The department has taken significant steps towards e-procurement with a $5m smartening up of its own internal systems. Earlier this year, it set up an end-to-end internal electronic system for purchase-order processing, using SAP, with a catalogues and workflow for authorisation of orders, but the final order still goes out on fax at present.

It is too soon to say what the advance to full e-procurement capability might cost the Police, Pope says. But it would be only about 5% of the $5m.

Making the link electronically will “close the loop” on the purchase order side for everything from uniforms to stationery, he says. “We are now configuring XML output to a website. Suppliers will poll that site and take orders directly into to their own electronic systems.”

The two suppliers involved at present are Serco for clothing and equipment and Corporate Express for stationery. But more remains to be done before Police can reach the target of full B2B e-procurement. This would involve electronic channels for confirmation of purchase, delivery and payment, and online visibility of the status of back orders, among other components.

Future funding approval is further handicapped by the fact that the major savings, in smartening up Police’s internal business processes, have already been taken into account. This leaves less efficiency gain to claim as justification for the new expenditure. Police is working on its business case for the further enhancements, and this is scheduled to be complete by February next year.

The department is mindful of the State Services Commission’s e-procurement effort, says Pope, but Police's system has been explicitly designed to be as open as possible, using standards like XML.

"There is very little bespoke programming," says Peter Kiernan, of the national procurement group. "That would lock us in to not being able to move forward. This way it's as future-prooof as it can be."

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