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Updated 16 November 2022
© Crown copyright 2022
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/department-for-education-major-projects-accounting-officer-assessments/accounting-officer-assessment-schools-buying-programme-sbp
Accounting officers scrutinise significant policy proposals or plans of major projects, and then assess whether these plans measure up to the standards set out in managing public money managing public money.
From April 2017, the government has committed to make a summary of the key points from these assessments available to Parliament when an accounting officer has agreed an assessment of projects within the government’s major projects portfolio (GMPP).
This is a summary of the accounting officer assessment of the schools buying programme (SBP).
The schools buying programme is designed to help schools achieve value for money. It contributes to the efficiency and sustainability portfolios. The programme is designed to support schools to:
The programme aims are to:
At present the programme does not require any new legislation. The programme continues to comply with Parliamentary requirements for the control of expenditure, with programme funds being applied only to the extent and for the purposes authorised by Parliament.
The schools buying programme operates within a governance framework which includes established programme and operations boards. The Schools Commercial team (SCT) and the wider schools resource management portfolio have a wide range of stakeholders, including external representation from the education sector, who provide insights and feedback on the programme’s progress. The programme’s governance operates in line with the principles and controls set out in managing public money.
The programme business case is reviewed regularly by the SCT programme and operations management team (POMT) to ensure it accurately reflects the current activity and progress of the programme. POMT work with business partners and the senior responsible officer (SRO) to assess any requirements for review by the department’s investment committee. The programme business case (PBC) was last approved by investment committee in September 2020. This will be resubmitted to investment committee in the event of any major amendments.
There is a strong VfM rationale for investment in the schools buying programme. While there are already many examples of excellent practice in procurement and contract management, extensive user research demonstrates the additional value the programme can deliver.
The programme’s services and support are helping schools and academies across England achieve monetizable savings in their non-staff spend which can then be reinvested into education for pupils. Published programme outcomes in Schools commercial: performance of initiatives evidence savings generated.
The programme remains deliverable in performance, cost, and time. The programme delivery approach has been subject to review and assurance by both internal Department for Education (DfE) assurance groups and external parties. An independent assurance review of the programme delivery strategy was conducted in March 2022 and assessed programme delivery confidence as green. The green rating has been assigned on the basis that successful delivery to time, cost and quality appears highly likely and there are no major outstanding issues that appear to threaten delivery. Following the independent assurance review, the team are proactively responding to recommendations to maintain the green rating and have a plan in place to achieve this.
As the accounting officer for the Department for Education, I have prepared this summary to set out the key points which informed my decision.
My overall assessment is that the schools buying programme meets the requirements of the 4 accounting officer tests of regularity, propriety, value for money and feasibility. I am therefore satisfied that the programme is a good use of public resources.
If any of these factors change materially during the lifetime of this programme, I will undertake to prepare a revised summary, setting out my assessment of those factors.
This summary will be published on the government’s website (GOV.UK). Copies will be deposited in the Library of the House of Commons and sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General and Treasury Officer of Account
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