Do we need a MOP (Minister of Procurement)?

I think I might have had a 'comment' on the Supply Management blog moderated out! So let's open the discussion here.

Basically, various folk - including the editor of Supply Management and the CEO of CIPS, are calling for there to be a 'Minister of Procurement'. Or a MOP as I like to call her / him.

I don't agree.  I do believe that public procurement will be vital in the years to come, as evident from our White Paper serialised on the blog.  But a MOP will add little and could actually add a layer of confusion, allowing other Ministers to step back from what they must do in terms of driving efficiency and value in every Department.

And actually, there are two Ministers already with responsibility for procurement  - Ian Pearson, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Liam Byrne, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. For Pearson, it is a significant part of his role and OGC reports into him.

One of the comments on the SM blog says this;  " Simply left to the Treasury and other government departments – nothing significantly different will change".

But where is the MOP going to be based if not in "Treasury or other government departments"?  In the back room of the Westminster Arms?  And anyway, what will they do?  Ministers run Departments with substantial budgets and staff; you can't rip third party spend out of other Departments without changing the fundamental nature of government (and it would be a disaster) - so is the MOP going to merely run around Whitehall, 'advising' other Ministers and getting in the way of the OGC Chief Exec?

I have personal experience of a Minister - a really good and committed guy - trying to get other Departments to do something specifically in the procurement space.  He started by calling a meeting of other key departmental Ministers.  Some attended; and promised in principle to do what he asked.  Most didn't follow things through though (it just wasn't their top priority) .  The next meeting, Ministers delegated attendance to their commercial or procurement heads.  By meeting three, it was deputy directors of procurement; and very little has actually happened despite the excellent intent of the Minister.  What could he actually do to make colleagues change behaviour at a detailed procurement level?  Very little.

So the MOP I fear would add little real value and would end up being a "Minister without Portfolio" - without power, without people, without purpose.

And a final observation.  The one actual minister for procurement we currently have is in the MoD.  I leave you to decide whether that has been an encouraging precedent for a role of this nature!

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