Copied from the Financial Times in toto for those who can't be arsed to register. By Nicholas Timmins, Public Policy Editor Published: October 11 2010 21:40 | Last updated: October 11 2010 21:40 Ministers should leverage the governments buying power and require departments to use centrally negotiated contracts for energy, IT, travel, accommodation and other basic commodities, Sir Philip Green, the governments efficiency adviser, has recommended. Every transaction, including those below £1,000, should be specifically authorised. And all existing contracts with more than £100m still to go should be audited to extract better value from them. In a report that Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, said revealed staggering waste, Sir Philip said departments were paying as much as £73 for a box of paper, or as little as £8. Mr Maude added: His review shows that for too long there has been no coherent strategy to make government operate more efficiently. The highest price paid for a printer cartridge is £398 against £86 for the cheapest, while the highest and lowest price for laptops ranged from £353 to £2,000 when the equivalent high-end computer could have been bought for £800. The government might save up to 40 per cent or £800m on its fixed-line telecoms costs roughly estimated at £2bn if a central contract was used. Further savings could be made on its £21m mobile phone bill. Some £50m could be saved by requiring use of video conferencing rather than bringing staff to London. IT contracts are inflexible and poorly negotiated. One pays a contractor for hardware provision and software development at a rate of £1,000 per person per day on a £100m-a-year contract when most of the work is subcontracted to another supplier. And property management is wholly inefficient. One agency signed a 20-year rental lease at £1.2m a year with no break clause for 15 years with the government abolishing the body nine months later producing an unnecessary rent commitment of £18m. Sir Philips key recommendation is that there must be a mandate for central procurement and a big improvement in the quality of procurement data, which are both shocking ... inconsistent ... and hard to get at. That criticism has been repeatedly made by businessmen who have reviewed government procurement. The government should also use its credit rating to secure better prices. It is virtually guaranteed to pay up once it has signed a contract, so suppliers should be able to borrow cheaply. Sir Philip said his paper gives a fair reflection of the inefficiency and waste of government spending which is due mainly to very poor data and processes. Budgets need to be built bottom up. Procurement and property management should be centralised, while poor data must be improved. Sir Philip said government procurement cards, introduced to make small purchases easier, now operated on such a scale they were not properly monitored. There are 140,000 payment cards in circulation, on which about £1bn a year is spent but not monitored.