Procurex Wales Live – This Morning’s News From Cardiff Event

Greetings from Cardiff, where we are basking in Mediterranean type sunshine as the male voice choirs sing "Agadoo" on the waterfront ... Well, not quite, it is a cool, grey morning, but after my night in the Premier Inn and a breakfast that was MUCH better than Giles Coren's recent Times review would suggest, I'm warmed and energised by a day of solid procurement content. (Breaking news - sun coming out now!)

20161006_094803_resized1Today I am at the Procurex Wales Live event at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. This is hosted by the Welsh Government's National Procurement Service (NPS),  and delivered by Bip Solutions.  There are no less than five parallel streams of sessions running for much of the day, along with a major exhibition with over 50 supply side firms exhibiting.  This has developed into a large and impressive event very quickly; this is only its second year but there  were 1800 registrations and certainly many hundreds of people here this morning.

So as well as the Keynote speeches, there is a leadership and development stream, the Digital Wales zone, a "Future of Procurement" stare, and one aimed at supply side. So there must be over 50 people speaking or participating in panel discussions - that is why I'm here, for a panel this afternoon looking at "policy through procurement" initiatives.

The presentations are taking place in only partly screened off areas around the central exhibition hall - not ideal in terms of background noise and does not lend itself to audience questions and debate to be honest. But the programme is very strong, and as a free event for public sector practitioners, it has clearly become a "must attend" for pretty much everyone in the Walsh public procurement community.

sue-mAnyway, Sue Moffatt, Commercial Director for the NPS, kicked off this morning with a brief introduction, setting the scene.  We then had a politician, Mark Drakeford, who is Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government.  He was a probation officer and an academic before getting into politics, so has a broader perspective than many politicians. He talked almost exclusively about "human capital" and the work going on in Wales in terms of driving ethical employment practices in the supply chain - we will have a full article on that to come soon.

We'll also feature Steve Morgan's remarks in more detail - the top procurement man at the Ministry of Defence is also non-executive chair of the NPS Board, but here he spoke about MOD's programme to encourage SMEs and innovation in the supply chain - really very interesting and impressive.

Then we had Sophie Howe, the "Future Generations Commissioner". The "Wellbeing of Future Generations Act" means that this must be considered in procurement decisions made by the public sector. Quite a challenging objective, we would say, and it will be fascinating to see how that gets "operationalised" as it were and put into practice in real procurement decisions. Howe was passionate but short on the detail of just how this will get taken into account in procurement processes, but we have another session on that later today so we may learn more.

There is a major focus on modern slavery in the keynotes today - three different speakers on the topic, which seems maybe to be over-playing its significance to be honest, important issue though it is. But Kevin Hyland, UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (the only one of the three presentations I have seen at this point) was good. Some of the stories are quite harrowing really and yes, it does go on in the UK. But his talk did leave me thinking that procurement is being asked to compensate to some extent for the failings of the police. As Hyland say, most of what goes on is illegal. So, we wonder, why are the police so slow to do much about it?

I've also just seen Nikki Bell from the Scottish Government talking about the "procurement people of tomorrow" programme, for instance getting procurement on the agenda in schools and universities, as well as working with the existing procurement community in the Scottish public procurement sector. This is excellent work and we must get an article from Nikki here.

Anyway, congratulations to every one involved; a very impressive event all in all. And as we say, we'll have more next week.

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