The government is pushing ahead with BSF (Building Schools for the Future) which sounds like a good idea in theory. The plan is at different stages in different parts of the country but the idea is to end up with private companies being given control of the spending over a whole county in order to procure items in bulk so providing better value for money. Sounds good!! Gets more equipment for the same money surely, or gets the same amount of equipment for much less!! IF ONLY. The FACTS are that that the system has gone back 20 years to the days of the LEA’s having to use approved suppliers which are chosen by some faceless people in the councils and who knows how and why they are ‘preferred suppliers’ and how much someone has had their pockets lined because they are certainly not the cheapest or even give the best service.
18 months ago we were supposed to receive some equipment under this scheme, since then a private company has been sat on the money (£60,000 in the case of our school, times that by the rest of the schools in the county!! A LOT of money!!) After complaining about the delay and having a very tough bursar we were able to opt out of the scheme and get the money allocated to procure the items ourselves. Only 2 other schools opted out. Today we were given the breakdown of the equipment and prices that the ‘preferred bulk supplier’ actually supplied.
This scheme is to supply laptops for use by underprivileged students, we were awarded £60k like I say and exactly how this was calculated and for how many pupils it was supposed to help is a bit vague. The fact is that the company came back with a specification and price for the products that it is supplying to the schools that didn’t opt out. On finding out what they supplied we went off to see how competitive the prices were in order to see if we had made a bad decision in opting out. We could not find the makes and models anywhere to get a price, apart from on some Spanish websites from South America and the like so we rang round some of the suppliers we currently use. It turned out that the models supplied were base models that were discontinued in this country 2 years ago!! The company supplying them has been trying to break in to the local authority market for some time and has a terrible reputation for service and support.
For the same price they have quoted we have bought the required amount of latest spec laptops with full accidental damage warranty and full support contract for £200 less per unit. This allows us to either help more pupils or supply broadband for a year for the ones that have no internet access at home. I think the internet access was part of the original grant deal, but all the other schools have no money left over for this as the supplier has conveniently used the full allowance just supplying the agreed minimum amount of laptops (which we have now sourced from abroad for £300 less than the charge made to the schools).
Bearing in mind they have sourced probably 50+ times the amount that we have how can that possibly be classed as saving money by buying in bulk?? How is this moving forward and who approves these companies to supply us? Oh and a point I forgot to mention was that there was a big meeting to decide the way forward 6 months ago. One of the speakers was a representative from Dell, now I am no big fan of them but they were offering to supply everything including connection and support and everything else but with mega security and if any unit was stolen or missing they had the technology to ‘spike it’ and render it useless and then supply a replacement still for less than the cost of the units supplied. Somewhere the powers that be still went along with an inferior product, inferior support, and inferior service, for a dearer price and no security or accidental damage cover. WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
None of it makes sense to me unless there is either somebody with a conflict of interests making decisions or money changing hands somewhere. This cannot be a decision made on the merits of the supplier. I am really not happy that the small glimpse that I get into the spending of taxpayers money is so wasteful at least and probably illegal. I mentioned going back 20 years because I know for a fact that these dodgy deals WERE going on then. The county council employed companies and one that had a HUGE contract to supply the counties schools was run by the son of the man heading the council and charged 3 times legitimate what companies were quoting. I understand that if there are 60 people doing purchasing that you are going to get a fraction of that taking kickbacks off companies in order to get their business, I have been offered them myself, but at least the companies have been pricing competitively and just adding freebies on top (not taken any for personal gain). 5 years ago though we were forced to use only approved suppliers and all were around 50% dearer than stuff we could source elsewhere. Now we are free and the government is going to force us back to using ripoff ‘preferred suppliers’ it makes no sense to me.
Where all the blog posts go that end up on the front page!
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