Not enough focus on the wider benefits of £74 million food procurement for Welsh hospitals and schools, says National Assembly committee
Not enough is being done to realise the wider benefits of quality food procurement for Wales’ hospitals and schools, according to a National Assembly committee.
The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee found more than £74 million a year is spent on buying food for use in the Welsh public sector.
But the potential health and wellbeing effects of quality food procurement aren’t properly being explored and the Committee concluded the money should be seen as an investment in Welsh people.
The Committee also found that public sector procurement is not considered by suppliers to be reliable or prestigious. In tender documents, the National Procurement Service had over-estimated the value of food contracts with the reality being that they were worth a fraction of what was projected.
This, the Committee concluded, could result in companies having a negative view of public procurement in Wales. Committee members want the Welsh Government to do more to ensure the sector is seen as reliable, simple and desirable for businesses of all sizes.
Evidence was also heard concerning myths and over-exaggerations around EU procurement rules which put local suppliers off bidding for contracts. The Committee found examples of practices in other EU countries which did not prevent the procurement of food that is locally produced, healthy and sustainable.
The Committee believes that Wales must be ready to face the challenges and reap the opportunities arising from Brexit. It recommends the Welsh Government start preparing now to ensure that the regulations, standards and structures we have are right for Wales.
“We are concerned at the perception of public food procurement among suppliers in Wales,” said Mike Hedges AM, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.
“That some companies see the sector as unreliable, and that contracts are often not worth the estimated value placed on them by the National Procurement Service, means that more must be done to restore faith and ensure tenders are attractive enough for businesses to bid for them.
“We also believe there are wider benefits to explore in terms of health and wellbeing among patients and schoolchildren at Welsh hospitals and schools.
“So we’re recommending the Welsh Government develop an overarching food strategy, which sees food as an investment in the lives of people in Wales. As a starting point, we must make the most of the £74 million a year being spent by the public sector so we can improve health, wellbeing and social outcomes.”
The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.
Read the full report:
Rethinking Food in Wales Public Procurement of Food (PDF, 661 KB)