10 Procurement Issues and Priorities for the New UK Government

So, common sense prevailed / self-interest overcame the wider good / the old English atavistic fear of the Scots came through / convincing leadership won the day (delete depending on your views and prejudices). Anyway, the Tories won an overall majority in the UK election, to the great surprise of almost everyone, with a few exceptions. Yes, I am going to blow my own trumpet again and quote what we said three weeks ago in this article for Spend Matters UK/Europe.

Shall I make my personal prediction?  I feel that the likelihood of the SNP basically running English affairs is going to hit home with many undecided and floating voters as we get nearer to May 7th. It fills me with horror, I know that. It might even bring some UKIP folk back to reality. So I predict the Tories will do better than expected, might even get a small overall majority, or more likely will form another coalition with a smaller but still significant Lib Dem group.

It just seemed to me that almost everyone I spoke to, whatever their political shade, had that concern that the Scottish Nationalists – who don’t even want to be part of the UK – would be dictating our lives. With the polls showing both parties at around 34%, I thought “if just 3% of people switch to the Tories, that gives them a majority.” And that is what happened. I very nearly placed a spread bet when the Tories were expected to win 270 seats by the bookies. Looked up the odds and everything - £10 a seat on that and I would have been £600 better off today. Rats!

Anyway, enough of all that unashamed boasting, what are the 10 procurement-related issues (in a broad sense) that will now have to be faced by the Conservative government? (We have to get used to not writing “the coalition”!) Here is a quick initial list:

  1. Who becomes the Minister for the Cabinet Office, replacing (probably) Francis Maude? And do they keep the responsibility for procurement anyway – or might it even go back to Treasury?  It is no secret that Maude would like to keep that role but from the House of Lords once he is Lord Maude – can’t see that myself but you never know.
  2. With more austerity on the way, how can more savings be driven out of procurement spend, in an environment where the “low hanging fruit” has been largely plucked and there is evidence that some suppliers are even losing enthusiasm for public sector work?
  3. As well as the pure savings angle, how can private sector involvement in the largest and most sensitive outsourcing contracts (probation, welfare to work, health services) deliver good results and regain the public’s confidence?
  4. Can Crown Commercial Services demonstrate that it is really giving a return on the huge investment that has been made in recruiting lots of senior staff? Their annual report, due in the summer, should be interesting.
  5. How on earth will the new Tory manifesto target of a third of government spend going to SMEs be achieved when huge fiddling of the numbers was needed to get it to the 25% mark?
  6. What commercial approaches are best suited to getting the most out of markets and suppliers in the new world of IT based on cloud and digital services (bearing in mind wrangling over the Digital Services Framework, G-Cloud, “tower” versus prime contractor, agile, etc)?
  7. Do the commercial, programme management and technical skills exist and can they be lined up to ensure that HS2 (high-speed rail) does not become the next huge money-pit scandal / cock-up?
  8. The NHS is worth 10 points of its own - from the role of CCGs and the public / private debate, to whether good procurement practice in some Trusts can be spread around the whole network, and whether the central NHS Procurement Strategy, particularly the technology element, will ever amount to more than a lifetime sinecure for the people involved in “implementing” it?
  9. With the mandate for public organisations to accept e-Invoices coming soon, should the government push adoption harder and force authorities to go for 100% usage? And more generally, how can procurement and supply chain technology better support all the other objectives?
  10. Social care. We’re all going to need it one day. Billions of pounds a year, how can we buy it better, more creatively, more professionally?

Any other suggestions for a top 10 list? Which elements of public procurement need real focus? We’re interested in your views as to the priorities for the five years ahead.

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Voices (6)

  1. Secret Squirrel:

    In order:

    1) Well, we now know it’s Matt Hancock
    2) Not out of simple commodities
    3) Ha ha ha ha……
    4) No.
    5) The same as before. Fiddling.
    6) Depends on organisational capacity to be an intelligent client. Prime contractor it is then.
    7) Yes. But only if they are allowed to get on with it without interference.
    8) No. And hahahahahahahahahahaha. When have DH’s commercial team delivered anything like that?
    9) Yes but it won’t.
    10) Please don’t scare me.

    Who is up next?

  2. Dan:

    Contracts Finder: using it is going to be full-time job. It needs to be made more user friendly. Might not be as important as some of the more strategic stuff, but it will have a huge impact on a day-to-day basis.

    As it stands, every OJEU tender, and every advertised tender over £10k/£25k will need to be put on there. Every Contract Award notice over the above values will need to be put on there, whether advertised or not. Every framework call-off (regardless of value or whether it was awarded via a mini-comp) will need to be put on there. Even if its just an order for a £2 pack of pens. A monstrous task, so it needs to be as simple and as automated as possible.

    1. Sam Unkim:

      It’s not retrospective, so the automatic feeds your E-Tendering software produces should be taking care of that by now

      1. Dan:

        It should, but doesn’t yet. The integration with Contracts Finder currently leaves a lot to be desired.

        In any case, a lot of the contract award stuff wouldn’t go through an e-tender system as its effectively just a PO.

        1. Sam Unkim:

          Section 108 ?
          We are taking the view, if it’s sub value threshold and is neither signed by the vendor, nor places any on-going £££ obligation on the purchaser then it’s a Purchase Order rather than a contract.

          It’s a nuanced argument either way though

          1. Dan:

            “Nuanced”. I like that word. I would have said ‘expensive’

            I might take your lead on this, if only for the sake of my sanity

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