Government Procurement Service – how’s it going (part 1)?

We took a trip up to Liverpool at the end of February to see Government Procurement Service (GPS). We last featured them back in August, when David Shields was still fairly new and getting to grips with the organisation as the new Chief Executive.

How are they getting on?

Capital Building, Liverpool - lovely!

Well, they’ve relocated to the Capital, which must be about the ugliest office building in the UK from the outside but surprisingly pleasant inside. It is huge and modern with amazing views over the Mersey to the North Wales hills. But more to the point, it is 40% cheaper than the Liver Building space, and as GPS are using what was empty government offices, the saving to the taxpayer is effectively the entire previous rent.

The most impressive aspect of what I saw and heard was the managerial organisation and drive that Shields - with the support of his senior team - has applied. We talked last time about his (what you might term) obsession with data, and that continues, whether it is supplier performance data, uptake of contracts by each government department, or savings. This is becoming very much a data-driven organisation.

The Capital - much nicer on the inside

Productivity has also undoubtedly increased, and while I am a little cynical about the quasi mystical way some (not Shields to be fair) talk about "lean", implementing those principles has led to been a clear increase in output. For example, the recent contract for civil service training was let in less than 5 months, start to finish. I know some of our private sector readers won’t see that as particularly speedy, but for something of that size and complexity, running across multiple departments, that is a notable achievement.

Back to the data theme - the customer service measures have been redesigned as we mentioned last time. Shields admits that they’re not all moving in the right direction for every category and department – but at least they are now realistic and meaningful measures, so can form a basis for action.

Of course, GPS will also be judged by their output in terms of the PQQs and tenders they issue. And some of the high profile contracts, such as the ConsultancyOne framework, are being driven by the Department of Work and Pensions rather than GPS (although GPS are supporting the process). And Shields fully expects there to be more supplier challenges.

"In the old world, if you didn't get on one framework, you didn't worry, there would be another one along in a while. It's different now, and suppliers are inevitably going to worry more about winning GPS work or a place on our framework. So that will also make them more likely to challenge when they don't succeed - they have more to lose now". An interesting perspective - and I think he's right.

He is also robust when he points out that some suppliers who have complained about decisions have been those that he can show were charging the public sector prices way out of line with the market! Which again demonstrates the power of data.

Stay tuned for further reporting from my visit - we'll be looking at systems and technology next time, then people and the GPS relationship with other public organisations in part 3.

Voices (7)

  1. Dave:

    This article does not reflect reality.

    You might be talking to the “senior team” (or maybe just Mr Shields?) but certainly for staff at GPS, what is left, positive support is less forthcoming. ConsultancyOne is already widely acknowledged by suppliers large and small to be a confused and mismanged disaster. What meaningful and useful data has actually emerged from the enormous and uncoordinated efforts to date, and what its being used for? – I hope more than just telling suppliers their prices are steep and justifying the (increased) challenges in procurements, which of course is NOTHING to do with GPS performance!!!!!!

    1. Surely not!:

      This comment does not reflect knowledge

      It iis widely acknowledged by readers large and small to be confused, biased and ill informed!

  2. 5th Columnist:

    GPS have shortened the timescales for placing Frameworks by stopping asking the customer what they might want. You end up with a Framework that GPS and/or their Crown Commercial Representative wanted to place, not necessarily what the Public Sector wants to buy. That might not be a bad thing though, and will at least maximise their commission.

    1. Dan:

      To be fair, OGC set up frameworks that included what everybody wanted, and the result was frameworks that were so wide ranging that they couldn’t really deliver value for money

  3. Final Furlong:

    Thanks Peter. Did David, using his new mountain of (accurate?) data, demonstrate the progress he is making in taking 25% out of the circa £13 billion annual spend (measured against the 9/10 baseline) as a result of procurement savings alone (not including any savings delivered by cuts in headcount and therefore reduced demand)? Just wondered…

    I remain curious about the circa £2 billion+ travel contract and, again, I wonder why they didn’t pursue best practice…

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