Readers’ Comments from last week on Spend Matters

Claire Herbert takes a look at your comments on last week’s articles.

Cabinet Office SOS – send for the consultants!

The UK’s Cabinet Office was leading a drive to bring in external experts to help major programmes and projects across government, many with a major procurement element. We discuss whether all these external experts make the difference.

Trevor Black believes bringing in experts is a waste of time:

“The best consultants in the world will not be able to reverse major projects that are ill considered and commercially inept. When political dogma gets into overdrive all the consultants can do is to tinker around the edges, e.g. HS2. You can imagine the response from Government if a well respected consultancy made recommendations that the intended project was barking mad to start it in the first place. You simply change Minister and carry on regardless. Such is the world of politics!”

Jon Hughes agrees:

“Three years to me, Peter, sounds more than enough to do something very significant on critical mass, capacity, competence and capability. Alas, that hasn’t happened. Buying in consultants alone cannot be the answer.”

Tom Graham believes the expertise already lie internally:

“Government ‘has not managed to develop the commercial and project management skills internally’? As a Procurement Manager in Government I know that the skills are already there. The Cabinet clearly has no confidence in any Civil Servant’s commercial skills and thinks the likes of Capita and Serco will save the day.“

While Midfield Captain believes:

“To be fair to the CO, it seems that it is seeking to plug its ‘capability’ gaps by hiring good ol’ consultants.

Boosting the contract management and SRM capability appears laudable, but I wonder if the CO announcement was driven in part by the NAO’s reports on the government effort to manage its strategic suppliers…”

Bill Crothers, UK Government CPO, is awarded the CB in New Year’s Honours

We congratulate Bill Crothers for being appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the New Year’s Honours List. However some were slightly surprised given he has only been in the role of the UK Government’s Chief Procurement Officer for 18 months.

Whilst in the minority, Trevor Black views the occasion in a positive light:

“We should all congratulate Bill Crothers as the honor can only help raise the profile of procurement which is still regarded as a second tier function in Government and many parts of the business community. If it only draws attention to the benefits of what good procurement can achieve to a few then you must regard this as progress.”

BillAtthetill strongly disagrees, believing others deserved the CB more:

“This is simply a shocker. People who normally receive these awards do so because they have pursued what they believe in for many many years, having made a difference in the lives of many people.

As Peter has (diplomatically) stated, Crothers has only been in post for just 18 months and has yet to deliver any real change.  And Crothers isn’t even a procurement professional or procurement practitioner – he’s a ‘salesman’ (for the record, these are his words not mine…), so this makes a mockery of our profession.

In comparison, David Smith dedicated his entire civil service career to procurement  including time on CIPS Board and numerous trips to Africa to promote better procurement, when he was recognised with a CB.

In truth, I was actually expecting Stephen Kelly, Cabinet Office’s COO (Crothers’ boss) to be the one to pick up something this year, but perhaps he’s been promised a knighthood in the next round…”

Is 18 months in the job long enough to deserve this CB? Effwhitt doesn’t think so:

“Whilst I applaud anything which raises the profile of procurement I believe the honour has been too narrowly awarded in too short a timescale…”

Nor does Phoenix:

“I can think of a lot of other people who have dedicated many many years of earnest service in public service procurement beyond Whitehall – in local government, health, education, emergency services, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What about them? Eighteen months? Ridiculous.”

 Happy New Year – and is a change of focus required from procurement in 2014?

With a strengthening economic recovery and looking for new and better ways of doing things to invest and create wealth, we’ll need to see a different approach from many procurement executives compared to that which has been appropriate over recent years.

Ian R voiced his opinion in this very interesting comment:

“Even in the austere world of local government I have started to see more interest in capital spending for 2014, as bodies have realised you can’t put investment off forever. However, the primary focus for us is to ensure we carefully manage how these projects are procured and the money is spent, difficult when everyone is now keen to press the button after 5 years of cuts, efficiency drives and reduction.

Procurement must be stronger in reminding stakeholders that we don’t just help save money, we help spend it more effectively and deliver added value too. At the same time we are not out of the woods yet and need to continue to look at ways to deliver services smarter, and continue to build the profile of procurement.

I’m sure some of this is relevant to the private sector also, as we need to ensure that what money is being spent on growth, investment etc doesn’t take us back to where we were in 2007, and delivers on every £ spent..”

Mary Wildsmith believes that we shouldn’t stop trying to save money just yet:

“I agree with the observation about Local Authority spend – Council Tax is paid by the public from their post-tax income and the economic recovery is not yet matched by rises in salaries for most people. This means that the pressure to save money for residents is still key. More value is being delivered also by an increasing focus on Supplier Management throughout the life of the contract.”

First Voice

  1. Trevor Black:

    Life is unfair but not if you are the PM’s barber!! How many short back and sides does it take to get a knighthood?

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