The Crown Commercial Service – why do we need a new Quango?

On reflection, what is puzzling me about the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) announcement yesterday is why the Cabinet Office needs to go through the hassle and cost of setting up a new Agency at all.

How does the CCS differ really from the Government Procurement Service?  It is apparently still going to look to service the wider public sector. It will still be an Agency and a Trading Fund.  Staff have been told that there won’t be redundancies, I hear, or any change of location.  The savings targets don't seem very different from those that GPS had historically delivered against.

The work will essentially be the same exceptthat:

- there will be a stronger mandate for departments to  use CCS and

- other activities from Cabinet Office procurement are joining the “old” GPS organisation – so policy, some of the crown commercial reps work etc.

But both of those changes could easily have been made working within the current GPS structure. The mandate would simply have been applied to GPS, and the other procurement activities and people could have just been rolled into GPS as well. So why create something new?

Well, it might be one of those political “we must be seen to be doing something”.  You can imagine talk of this dynamic new body in the marketing material for the next election. But hang on,  GPS was set up by the current government anyway, so setting up something only to replace it with a similar organisation seems a little strange from this perspective.

Or is it a Bill Crothers thing? Crothers, the Government CPO, wasn’t in post when GPS was formed so this is now his big idea. Or does the exit of David Shields come into it somewhere? Rolling more work into GPS would have put Shields into an even stronger position, whereas creating a new organisation might have given a route to  squeeze him out.

I honestly can’t think of any other reasons. I would ask Cabinet Office, but as they’re not even responding to my FOI requests at the moment (complaint to the Information Commissioner coming very soon) it doesn’t seem worth it. But I would genuinely love to know the real logic behind this – not the business strategy, which is understandable even if one doesn’t agree with all of it, but simply why a new Quango, (in Daily Mail speak), is needed to execute that strategy?

Voices (6)

  1. Tom Catuk:

    Maybe they are having a go at replacing the narrow field of vision employed by the GPS, BuyingSolutions and OGC with something far more ‘Commercial’.

    So replacing a machine that seems primarily concerned with creating nil-commitment Framework agreements with a body that tackles the early stage engagement as well as the in-life value creation. To do this efficiently, at the centre, for multiple clients, seems like a really good idea to this private sector observer…

    1. Bill Atthetill:

      Mmmmmmm. I would imagine that, to any sensible procurement person in the private sector, this would seem to be a really good idea. However, as in the private sector, it would have been a really good idea to put a senior, experienced, qualified procurement leader in the post of ‘CPO’ prior to embarking on a major procurement transformation programme across Central Government. Instead, they’ve put an ex-CRM specialist (from Accenture) with a ‘blindingly obvious’ negligible track record in procurement in charge. And from what we’ve all experienced and seen with our own (very experienced) eyes, Cabinet Office is in the land of the blind, and so their CPO only needs one eye…

  2. Trevor Black:

    Why not call it the Crown Suppliers or Buying Solutions or even the Office of Government Commerce. I don’t know why but that song keeps going round in my head ’round and round and round we go, where we go nobody knows’.

  3. Gordon Murray:

    Yep, I agree Pete, but even more basic is that it is unlikely to fix the things that are broken at present – see my Blog on the Greener Grass of the CCS.

  4. Dan:

    The new quango has ‘Commercial’ in its name rather than procurement, and therefore must be a lot better.

    1. Bill Atthetill:

      For your reference (and amusement) I have been told that this (below) has been taken directly from the official, Government-wide Cabinet Office announcement/comms:

      “What do we mean by commercial?

      All civil servants spending public money, or developing or implementing policy, need to be aware of the commercial drivers affecting the markets that might be required to help deliver services. By ‘commercial’ we mean how we engage and interact with the private sector and third parties to achieve the best policy outcome at the best price; it is about our attitude not process. Specifically this means encouraging competition wherever possible, building markets wherever appropriate, creating space for enterprise, undertaking sound economic appraisal, providing proper financial control and driving up efficiency through effective contract negotiation and management.”

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