Government departments have been criticised after it was revealed some are spending over eight times too much for printer cartridges.

In spite of the Office of Government Commerce having been established to improve the value of procured goods, some departments were paying 745 per cent more than others for the same item. While one department paid 0.22 pence per printed sheet for black toner, another paid 1.8 pence.

Across all of Whitehall, this made a significant difference to costs, warned the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission, which prepared the report.

The departments, which were not named, were also overpaying heavily on other IT. Some paid over two and a half times the necessary price for monitors – the best bulk buy value for money was a 17?inch LCD flat screen for £65, but another department paid £175.

Criticising the OGC for so far having “limited success”, Richard Bacon MP of the Public Accounts Committee - which holds hearings on NAO reports - said: “It should be obvious that when the public sector buys in bulk it has the potential to make real savings without hitting frontline services.”

The government incurred “unnecessary administration costs” by duplicating procurement activity, the NAO said. In 2008 alone, across all items including IT, the NAO estimated that 2,500 public sector tendering exercises were “unnecessary”.

For the government’s annual £10 billion IT spending, the NAO suggested a more standardised or common approach, particularly for commodity items such as hardware and telecoms. But it recognised the requirements for some items, including complex outsourcing, were “too diverse” to completely standardise.