Exclusive – David Thomas, Commercial Director, to leave HMRC

David Thomas, the Commercial Director at HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) has resigned, with effect from mid-December.  Thomas has been in that role since early 2006, after a long career in the energy industry with firms like Transco and NGT. "The decision was mine", he told us, and "both my CEO and Bill Crothers (Government's Chief Procurement Officer) tried to get me to change it".

Thomas says he wants to get a better balance back in his life after nine years of pretty much living away from home, first with Macquarie and then HMRC. He's not retiring, he says, and is open to working again "but it has to be the right role".

So that’s another one bites the dust...  Les Mosco is really the last of the veteran CPOs left in central government, (no offence Les), what with David Smith and Peter Coates already retiring in the Autumn as well as Thomas.  This is likely to be another momentum shift therefore towards the Cabinet Office centralisation initiative – Thomas, like Smith (and Mosco), is one of the few CPOs who have enough clout to stand up and argue for the retention of key procurement activities within their own departments.

I don’t know Thomas well, but he impressed me whenever we met, with his direct style and strong commercial sense. It’s worth remembering when you hear people say, “we need more private sector folk in government procurement”, that people like him and Mosco had significant private sector experience before they came into their roles.  (As did government CPOs like John Cavell at Inland Revenue and me at the DSS in the 1990s). This isn’t a new idea.

Thomas could be pretty blunt – I remember one National Audit Office manager saying to me, “I was very glad you were running that workshop, not me” after Thomas had given us the benefit of his (very intelligent) views in his usual forthright manner!

And I'm pleased he isn't necessarily packing up his procurement shoes for good, as he would be a big loss to the profession. I suspect he won't be short of offers and opportunities to do some interesting work anyway.  Good luck to him and we’ll try and get a proper interview  sometime before he finishes.

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