A Procurement Man in New Zealand – Paul Howard Reports!

(Pic; Queenstown, New Zealand. I mean, why would anyone want to live there?)


I was surprised a couple of months ago to get a communication from Paul Howard, a long-standing friend from the public sector procurement world – surprised because he had emigrated to New Zealand! Paul was an early exponent of eProcurement in government, worked in OGC, DWP and Department of Education. He latterly was Head of Procurement at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, then moved to Crown Commercial Services briefly before emigrating; he is a very forward-thinking procurement professional, and a lover of indie music too.

Anyway, we caught up with him recently to find out how the Kiwi adventure was going.

So what are you up to in NZ?

I started work in March as Commercial Lead in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment based in central Wellington. Procurement here has a look and feel of the UK Government, but probably doesn't enjoy quite the same level of either Ministerial or top Civil Service support that the UK does.

And why the move?

Our decision to emigrate was driven by a host of reasons but the main one was the lack of senior UK Government posts in the North West and I’d had enough of travelling down to London each week. I was working in the CCS Complex Transactions team and despite having Liverpool as my home base, I actually spent more time in London than when I was with DCMS.

I'd only been with CCS for 3 weeks when fate intervened and I was offered the role in the NZ Govt, so I tendered my resignation and applied for my visa. In an ironic twist I was then loaned back to DCMS, was given permission to recruit 3 extra people to bolster the function and temporarily promoted until they sourced my replacement - Marc Bryant, who was previously Head of Commercial for the ODA. I had a good 5 weeks handover period with Marc before I left.

What are you finding similar to the UK from a work point of view?

The Government Rules of Sourcing are based heavily on the contents of pre-recent reform OJEU rules. The aim here is to be open, fair and transparent with suppliers and you can, like the UK, find yourself challenged by suppliers if you don’t follow the rules. As a result, it’s useful context and enables a new immigrant to hit the ground running.  To illustrate this, just last week, there was a case reported where a Government Department was successfully challenged on the basis that they didn’t do what they said they were going to do in an evaluation, the court ruled that despite the fact that the rules weren’t legislation (although they are mandatory for all public sector organisations) they are binding and the supplier won their case.

What is quite different is that some of the rules are actually quite flexible which can be a double-edged sword. So some stakeholders use the flexibilities as a ‘get out’ clause from everything commercial whilst others have become terribly risk averse around breaking the rules to the point where they forget that the whole idea is to get a good deal.

What are you finding different?

Procurement here (in Government anyway), is still struggling hard to be seen as a strategic function, the advent of the NZ GPS is a positive step forward, but there’s a long way to go yet.   What it does mean though is that there are lots of opportunities because good procurement people in NZ are thin on the ground.  Procurement is a shortage skill here so having MCIPS means being halfway to a skilled migrant visa that comes with residency – lots of folk here are surprised when I tell them that I’ve come here on a residency visa. So far I’ve only been to one CIPS function which was useful from a networking point of view but generally speaking the main CIPS activities are in Auckland and Australia both of which you need to get on a plane for!

How about the personal side of life?

They drive on the left here so no worrying about adapting to a left hand drive car and Fish’n’Chips is a Kiwi favourite (I had the most amazing Blue Cod in Kaikoura a couple of  weeks ago). But it’s easier to describe what’s different – food’s generally more expensive but tastes way better, petrol is cheaper, diesel is way, way cheaper (but difficult to find a diesel car!). Electronic items tend to be cheaper, Energy costs are around the same.

They have some good pubs here in Wellington too, some with great views out on the harbour and a real craze on craft beers. Coffee is king here as well, there is a Starbucks but it’s there for tourists, the real coffee experts here won’t go near the place!  House prices are broadly equivalent to Manchester here in Wellington but the Auckland market is similar to London (more expensive, lots of foreign investors making the market overheat etc.).

 And the family?

My family arrived at the end of May, the main thing that’s dampening their enthusiasm is the fact that they’re having a double winter and this one (I’m reliably informed by my Kiwi colleagues) is a particularly cold and wet one (despite the temperature rarely falling below 10C), so we’re all looking forward to spending Christmas on the beach now.  All our stuff has now arrived from the UK so we’re moving into a unfurnished house and will rent for 12 months before deciding whether to buy or build.

Anything you are missing?

Central Heating and the Manchester music scene! But I can still listen to the superb new Slow Readers Club album ...

Thanks to Paul and we hope to hear more from him in the future ... and here is his favourite band, The Slow Readers Club!

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