Procurement can be defined as all the processes which result in the supply of goods and services to an organisation. These include strategic planning, sourcing, purchasing, payment and the end of life of the good. Importantly, procurement is also about the relationships between an organisation and its providers.

Procurement practices depend on the type of organisation, its cost drivers, its size and what is being procured.  Whatever the practices adopted, they will impact to a greater or lesser degree on the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social performance. Good procurement practices in schools means that the students benefit.

Below are a few general points to consider when procuring goods and services for your organisation. These can be incorporated into a School Procurement Policy.

  • Many schools have preferred suppliers with whom they have an established relationship.  While this provides numerous benefits to both the provider and the purchaser,  in some cases having a pool of suppliers has additional advantages. This allows you to test the market price, ensure that you have a reliable supply, and in the case of service providers, ensures that work is completed in good time when there is too much work for one provider.
  • How do you find suppliers? Have you considered other options?
  • How do you issue tenders and what do you include in your tender documents?
  • What criteria do you use for selecting providers? Price is one consideration among many. Others include the quality of good or service, reputation, the ability to understand your needs and reliability. Schools are special environments and service providers need to understand this environment.
  • Do you consider the supply chain? For example if you are purchasing school uniforms do you check on where the fabric was made – was it made by employees enjoying safe and fair working conditions? Does your supplier have a recycling program in place so that you can return waste such as obsolete technology hardware?
  • Are your procurement practices in line with the values of your School?
  • Do you wish to support local suppliers and/or small businesses? What advantages does this create for your School and the community in which you live?
  • Who decides who your suppliers are? Are there any checks and balances in place to ensure you are receiving the best product at the best price?  A team based approach is more likely to yield the best results.
  • How does the provider treat its employees and what are its WHS record like? Is there a high turnover of employees and does your provider practice a non-discrimination policy?

Procurement practices adopted reflect back onto your School. They not only impact on the triple bottom line, but also your reputation. In this era of increasing accountability, it is important to consider procurement practices to ensure that they are aligned with the School’s ethos and that money is being spent wisely.

About the Author

PhD in European Languages and Cultures (specialising in Literary Translation) Department of International Studies Macquarie University