UK Government Chief Procurement Officer Role – the plot thickens

So we reported yesterday that Cabinet Office appear not to have told David Smith (DWP Commercial Director and CIPS President) that they’d decided he was far too busy to continue being the Deputy Government Chief Procurement Officer and had appointed Sally Collier to the role.

We also asked Cabinet Office another question (a simple one, we thought) around the appointment of Bill Crothers into the CPO role. "What grade is the role"? Given it is somewhat different to the role John Collington held, that seemed a fair question. Here’s the answer we got.

Bill will be taking on all of John Collington’s responsibilities (except Shared Services which is a relatively small part of his current role) as well as his own.  We are considering the grade of the post and salary.

Does it seem strange to appoint someone to a job not knowing what grade or salary it is?

And here’s why this issue is a little more important than it first seems. If it is an SCS2 level role, that means that it is a level lower than that held by Collington (SCS3). So the perception amongst the procurement community and senior stakeholders across Whitehall might be that the  job has been down-graded, perhaps indicative of a lessening of focus or priority?

But if it is an SCS3, there is another problem. That would represent a promotion for Bill Crothers, a promotion to what is a seriously senior civil service grade. Now, irrespective of whether he deserves it or not, we don’t believe you can just promote people like that into such senior jobs. Other SCS2 senior procurement folk across government wouldn’t be too impressed, for a start. But more importantly perhaps, the Civil Service Commission Recruitment Principles will insist that you have a proper selection process. That doesn’t have to be open to everyone – it can be limited to internal candidates  (existing civil servants). But you need the Commission’s approval for appointments at this level: .

"The approval of the Commission is also required for appointments following an internal (existing civil servants only) competition, to the following posts.

  • Permanent Secretary
  • Pay Band 3"

One of our commentators last week pointed out that it  might have been a good opportunity to open up competition for such an important job to the wider market. There’s a lot to be said for that idea, although of course it would take some months, which is a disadvantage. But in any case, I don’t think Cabinet Office can just appoint directly into an SCS3 post, without running up against some questions of process and propriety. For that reason, I suspect when the dust settles, it will be an SCS2 role, raising those questions of priority and status again.

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