§ Mr. Todd
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list each of the functions relating to payment for goods services supplied for which his Department is responsible indicating the management systems purchased, all sub-contractors involved in the work, co-operative arrangements with other departments; and the costs of the systems and processes in the last year for which figures are available. 
§ Mr. Milburn
The process for making payments for goods and services forms the latter part of the purchasing process. The Department of Health has developed procurement procedures based upon guidance issued by Her Majesty's Treasury and those procedures are designed to ensure probity and fairness in procurement decisions. The processing of payments and the issue of payable instruments form part of the Department's accounting systems. The procedures for both placing orders and making payments to suppliers requires the necessary certification and authorisation that ensures an adequate separation of duties, thus conforming with Government accounting.
The Department does not use sub-contractors for payment work nor have co-operative arrangements with other departments for the payment of goods and services. The payment of welfare foods benefit does involve both the Benefit Agency in the issue of welfare milk tokens and a contractor to authorise payments against surrendered tokens. The Benefits Agency also authorises payments on the Department's behalf in respect of European Economic Area medical costs.
The Department's accounting system is based on a proprietary accounting package—Sun Accounts—amended by departmental staff to meet specific needs. The Department makes some 180,000 payments a year, which include payments to health authorities, local authorities, non-departmental public bodies and voluntary organisations. Payments to other Government Departments and health authorities are made by means of transfers. Whenever possible, other payments are made by means of bank automated clearing system and the remainder are paid by payable order.
The accounts payable and cashiering applications which support departmental payments form part of the accounting system and specific capital and development costs of the computer systems are not therefore readily available. The salary costs of providing a cashiering service are estimated to be £216,000 for 1997–98.758W
The Department has four executive agencies and the following table summarises the position of each.
Medicines Control Agency Medical Devices Agency NHS Estates Agency NHS Pensions Agency Contracting arrangements for payments None None None The payment of medical fees to independent advisers form part of the total service provided Co-operative arrangements with other government departments None None None None Estimated costs of making payments £105,000 £30,000 £40,000 £15,000