ProClass Procurement Classification System

Last Updated: 4th November 2014

What is it?

ProClass is a procurement classification system with a hierarchical structure.

Purpose

Consistent referencing of council expenditure using ProClass allows local councils to compare like-for-like information and identify cashable savings opportunities using well defined, unambiguous categories.

ProClass is therefore a hierarchical classification structure that overarches the multitude of other procurement coding systems (and versions) to underpin standard reporting and the promotion of collaborative working. It is not designed to replace these individual coding systems but to provide a ‘common language’ for comparative and reporting purposes.

Where is it?

ProClass can be browsed at ESD Toolkit ProClass page. URIs for each term are also defined here.

Download in Excel format at

http://www.proclass.org.uk

Further information and downloads of ProClass and mappings to other systems in Excel format can also be found here.

Ownership and Licensing

ProClass is a local government owned and is made freely available to any UK public sector organisation.

The trademark for the ProClass name is owned by the City of London Corporation on behalf of local government.

Scope and Jurisdiction

ProClass is intended for use by any government or public organisation in the UK.

ProClass provides headings for any ‘influenceable’ third party spend by public organisations on works, products or services. It is not intended at present to provide headings for un-influenceable spend, e.g. salaries, grants, staff expenses and tax payments.

Management

ProClass is managed by Coding International Ltd on behalf of English local authorities.

A new version incorporating user changes is usually released once or twice a year.

What Standards does it make use of?

There are no specific standards used in its design or maintenance.

Mappings to other Classification Systems

UNSPSC, CPV, NSV, NHS-eClass, and Thompson

ProClass is one of three main classification hierarchies used to define and analyse service information in UK local government. These are:

  • Local Government Service List (LGSL) – used by service managers and web managers (e.g. for cross-referencing between Directgov, Business Link and council websites). LGSL is maintained by the esd-toolkit under the Local Government Group
  • Service Reporting Code of Practice (SeRCoP) – used by public sector finance officers and central government as a way of summarising councils budgets and spending. SeRCoP is maintained by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA).
  • ProClass http://www.proclass.org.uk  – used by local authority commissioners, procurement managers, category specialists and contracts managers.

Take Up

IESE with the support of LeGSB, LGA and regional bodies in seven of the nine regions carried out the survey during March and April 2012. It attracted 186 responses with almost 40% of English local authorities taking part.

A fifth of district and borough councils responded while the rate for upper tier authorities was much higher at 58%.

Sixteen other organisations responded including fire, police and health services as well as procurement bodies.

 

Three quarters said they use ProClass either uniquely or alongside an existing coding system.

Use is highest amongst upper tier authorities with 74% saying they use it while the figure falls to 53% for district and borough councils replying.

Of those not currently using ProClass, over half said they we were ‘either actively introducing it’ or ‘thinking about it’.

 

In terms of the reasons for using ProClass, the survey found that:

> 78% said ProClass helps partnership working by making comparisons between local authorities easier

> 54% said it helps with the problems of multiple coding systems

> 44% said it helps them to meet the efficiency agenda

> 40% said it helps them to meet the transparency agenda

 

There are lots of examples across England where ProClass is embedded in financial systems, expenditure analysis tools, contracts registers, business portals and other ICT systems.

Product Support

Vendors of council finance systems including SAP, Unit 4 (Agresso) and Oracle across England.

ProClass has been actively promoted by 8 of the 9 local authority regional partnerships.

Potential Future Development and re-use

ProClass may be published as Linked Data to

  • Accord with the principles of Linked Open Data described at data.gov.uk
  • Support proper machine readable referencing of council spending according to the guidance of the Local Government Group Transparency Programme
  • Maintain one unambiguous source of definition of the latest ProClass classification (and historic versions) and each of its terms
  • Promote ProClass published in this way as a key standard for referencing all procurement expenditure in local government

Publish ProClass under the terms of the Open Government License

ProClass is meant for general use and will be issued following the terms of the Open Government Licence for Government users, and for data publishing and re-use.

Comments from the Custodian

Procurement and commissioning expenditure across English local government accounts for nearly £60Bn per annum. Much of this expenditure is made by departmental management at a local level. While financial systems are able to give headline and project related expenditure, there was no standard way or schema for capturing and analysing this information from a procurement or commissioners perspective.

This meant that there was no consistent, in depth, data record of what was being purchased at a local level. It was common for local authority departments to be unaware of what other departments were buying. This often resulted in them acquiring the same products or services at different prices.

Even with the high profile of procurement and commissioning activities, there was still no method of sharing common information between authorities, as no standard identification system was being used. Various councils tried different item coding systems, i.e. UNSPSC or Thomson, but none provided the right information at the right level of information, consistency and ease of use.

ProClass is managed by Coding International Ltd (CIL), the only specialist procurement coding experts that exist in the UK. Originally a department providing all the NHS with the National Supplies Vocabulary (NSV) coding system, they were privatised in 2000 taking their experience into the private sector. They use bespoke computer software to maintain various procurement systems, and have created their own high levels of quality assurance programmes necessary for this type of work, as there are no industrial standards for it. This was why they were chosen to manage and maintain ProClass and the mappings to other systems.

ProClass has the advantages of being

  • Designed and owned by local government catering for their specific needs and reflecting their priorities
  • Simpler, and therefore quicker and easier, to apply than the other classifications. E.g. ProClass has 523 headings; UNSPSC has over 60,000, CPV 9,454. This also helps the local application to be more accurate and consistent
  • Mapped to all the other known coding systems in use providing a common ‘translation’ mechanism to support collaborative working
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