Making your procurement process bulletproof – not just an issue for the Police?

How bulletproof, watertight, resistant to corruption, fraud or incompetence is your procurement process? That’s the question that many procurement executives – and senior people in organisations generally – should be asking themselves.  And some recent events are brining this issue firmly into the spotlight.

We don’t know much about the arrest of the Chief Constable of *Cleveland, Sean Price, and his deputy, along with the former head of legal services, on suspicion of fraud, corruption and misconduct (nothing too serious then...).

But there appears to be a link with contracts awarded by the Police Authority and / or the Force. According to the gazettelive (the local newspaper) in their previous report on the investigation,

“Meanwhile, Cleveland Police has blocked the release of information relating to business contracts commissioned by the police authority, after a freedom of information request from the Gazette”.

This comes after the furore around the Met Police employing an ex News of the World editor, and questions about that procurement process (amongst other issues). So not a good time for Police procurement, and there have also been questions raised about the closure of the Forensic Science Service – was that done in haste without a true understanding of the impact on market capability and capacity? That was a political, not procurement decision, but is having knock-on effects.  Along with the uncertain future for NPIA – part of whose role is / was to help Forces improve their own procurement performance – procurement in the sector is high profile, and not necessarily in the right way.

Perhaps the greater transparency introduced by the coalition is beginning to have an effect in putting things into the spotlight in the public sector.  But what is obvious is that all Forces and, we would suggest, all organisations need to look NOW at their procurement processes and policies in the light of some of these recent developments.

This applies, in our opinion, to the private sector just as much as to the public. The Bribery Act, for instance, will increase focus on questions like “WHY exactly did you award that supplier a major contract just after they took your CEO on a 2 week ‘research’ visit to the USA...”?

My experience suggests that every organisation of any size will have some procurement related fraud or corruption going on somewhere in their process. So how do you go about identifying the issues that could lead to trouble? We’ll take a look at that subject – and my goodness, it’s a big one – over the next days and, quite probably, weeks!

(Interestingly, Cleveland has been a leader in major outsourcing / PFI deals – there’s no hint that they are part of this investigation, but they’ve recently got into a major IT / back office outsource and were early adopters of property PFI).

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