The DWP Procurement Top Team speak….

I got the chance to have a quick call last week with David Smith and Andrew Forzani. As regular readers will know, Forzani is joining the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in March as Director of Procurement  - basically, the number two to David Smith, the Commercial Director.

Our conversation was at the end of a morning Forzani spent in the Department, meeting staff, key senior stakeholders and even the odd Minister. It was clear that he’d got a real sense of the size of the organisation, which is the largest non-military central government Department, and the scale of the tasks it has in hand with billions of pounds of third party spend and critical programmes such as Universal Credit and the Work Programme.  Let’s start with a question to Forzani.

So having seen a little of the Department, are you still looking forward to the new job?

Tremendously. The last three hours have just confirmed how important 2013 is to the DWP and the breadth of the procurement priorities. And it’s been good to hear senior people – including the Permanent Secretary – emphasising the importance of the role the commercial team and commercial activities play in the Department.

You got to meet the Perm Sec then?

Yes, and he stressed that he sees senior Commercial staff as leaders in a broader sense as well as procurement specialists – and that our work is all about driving wider business change.  And generally it’s clear commercial is well placed and has a strong reputation with stakeholders, which is good news.

What do you think you might miss about Surrey (Forzani is currently Surrey County Council’s CPO)?

Well, apart from my team, I think being close to the action and the front line of our service delivery. DWP is a huge national organisation so it is inevitably harder to keep that closeness than in a single County like Surrey. But I’ll try hard not to get stuck in Whitehall! I want to get out and spend time with both our DWP team around the country, and make sure I spend some time in Job Centres and other operational units so I’m visible and I get to see what is going on. I need to understand the impact of procurement across the whole organisation.

Apart from the obvious – the major delivery tasks – what do you think your priorities will be?

I think providing visible leadership to a large team, making sure that team is cohesive and continuously improving.

David, is your role going to change much?

Not really, but having Andrew here is another conduit for delivering our challenging and interesting agenda! We had 140 applicants for his role, our short list contained excellent people from both public and private sectors, and I think we got the right person. It’s a credit to the public sector actually – and public sector procurement - that there are people like him around.

I assume Universal Credit is high on everyone’s agenda?

Yes, we’re confident, but it is certainly getting a lot of focus. It all starts in April with Pathfinder areas, then October is the key implementation date, so there’s a lot to do.  There’ll certainly be pressure on Andrew from day one when he starts in March.

Any thoughts on the wider Government Procurement Service activities and how DWP fits with that?

I’m sure Andrew is looking forward to getting involved with that wider agenda.  We have to balance reform with delivery of course, and it has to be joined up, but we’re very committed to the programme.

Thanks to David Smith and Andrew Forzani, and good luck with 2013 and beyond!

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