Philip Green lays into UK Gov spending waste

Billionaire Sir Philip Green has published his much-anticipated report on government spending, laying into what he calls a "staggering" amount of waste.

After taking a peek at government accounts worth £191 billion, Green stated in the report - available here - that as much as 40 per cent could be shaved off costs by renegotiating contracts with mobile phone companies, stationers, IT and other providers.

In a press conference, Green angrily rejected accusations that his report was a manifesto for job cuts, telling one journalist: "It doesn't mention the word job in 34 pages. This has got nothing to do with firing people! Zero! Nought! I have never heard of anything like this in my life. Your views are quite weird."

Asked if government cost cutting would affect small businesses, he stormed: "I'm sorry, you must be drunk."

Green's report outlines a number of key problems affecting efficiency. Chief among them is the accusation that the government is failing to take advantage of its huge buying power. A lack of co-ordination, he says, means that there are wide disparities in the prices paid by different departments for similar goods or services - even from the same supplier.

According to the findings, the government's 60,000 laptops have been obtained from by 13 different suppliers, with no standardised specification across departments. As a result, the prices paid range from £353 up to £2,000 - a differential of 82 per cent.

"At this level of volume," says the report, "the Government should buy direct from a multinational manufacturer."

The report also reveals that 98 per cent of central Government mobile phones come from just one provider, but are supplied under 68 contracts negotiated individually by departments - a fact that makes the process "very inefficient", according to Green.

Green also turns his fire on poorly-drafted contracts.

According to the report, under a £100 million contract with one unnamed IT supplier, contractors were paid up to £1,000 a day - well above the market rate.

The contract includes services that are no longer required, and yet the Government is locked into the deal for another six years, because the original negotiations failed to include a 'get-out' clause.

The deal comes in for heavy criticism, too, for allowing the main contractor to subcontract out most of the work - leading, says Green, to "two profit margins".

Another target for Green's ire are the 71,000 procurement cards issued to staff in central Government which allow users to make up to £1,000 of purchases a month without any further authorisation - and, in many cases, no accountability.

Green's report will form part of the basis for cuts expected to be announced in the Government spending review due on 20th October.