Ben Brogan, Francis Maude and public procurement strategy

Ben Brogan's column in the Telegraph yesterday looked at the relationship between new Ministers and the civil service.  In general, he says, things are going pretty well, with Ministers boasting that officials have been 'energised'. (Comments from energised procurement people every welcome....)  However, there are dissenting voices,

"Mr Maude yesterday addressed a conference organised by the think tank Reform, whose director Andrew Haldenby is one of the most eloquent critics of what he fears is the Coalition's failure to take on what he calls the "structural causes of inefficiency". For a start, he says, ministers being embraced by delirious civil servants, telling them what a joy it is to have them on board, should be immediately suspicious. As Jim Hacker discovered every week, a happy Sir Humphrey is a Sir Humphrey who is getting away with something.

I like the Jim Hacker bit!  But the part of Brogan's article that I particularly noted was this,

"His (Francis Maude's) mantra is "tight-loose": some issues, such as pay and strategy, will be controlled tightly from the centre, but the rest will be devolved to departments, councils and citizens (officials only half-jokingly told him that for the moment, the approach is more "tight-tight")."

This is key to the strategy and organisation of public procurement as we move forward.  How much can be tightly controlled from the centre; simple commodity categories or more?  Large sensitive projects?  And how widely can it be tightly controlled?  Whitehall only? Or out into the wider public sector? These will be the issues that shape public procurement over the next few years.

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