Caroline Hastings, CPO for the States of Jersey – the biggest procurement job in the world?

How do you measure “big” jobs? Which procurement executive has the “biggest” job in the country or the world? Is it the size of the spend, and how tightly it is managed? Is it the most challenging task? The breadth of responsibility and the range of goods and services bought?

Those thoughts occurred as I spoke to Caroline Hastings recently. I worked with Caroline years ago when she was Head of Procurement for Devon and Cornwall Police, and one of the national leaders in that sector. Then I heard that she’d gone off to become Procurement Director for the States of Jersey in 2006, but I haven’t spoken to her since then. So it was good to catch up with her recently, and learn more – not only about what she does, but about Jersey itself.

Jersey is an independent British Crown Dependency. To my surprise, Caroline explained that it is not formally part of the EU (although it is treated as such in terms of free trade in goods) and therefore not covered by the EU procurement regulations. However, Jersey has developed its own procurement rules, which are, explained Caroline, broadly based on the EU principles.  And they also take advantage of a number of UK frameworks let by public sector authorities – such as some police contracts for specialist equipment.

The population of Jersey is roughly 100,000 and the total third party procurement spend is around £100 million a year. Caroline runs a relatively small central team of about a dozen people, with most of the procurement devolved to the ten ministries, which include Education, Sport and Culture, Health and Social Services, Housing and Treasury. As well as two people embedded in Health and Social Services and one in IS, her team influences policy and is  involved in cross-ministry categories and as advisors for major devolved spend. Corporate contracts cut across different departments and these are mandatory to enable procurement to offer committed volume to suppliers.

That takes us back to the comment about the size of the role. Jersey is a small self-contained country in effect, with public procurement ranging through pretty much everything a larger nation would buy – from police equipment to consulting, from health suppliers to boats for the coastguard, from IT projects to road maintenance. But because of the size, Hastings has some influence over all of this – unlike Bill Crothers in the UK for instance, who although he is the “Chief Procurement Officer” really has little involvement in local government or health because of sheer scale of the potential task. So it is hard to think of a broader procurement role than this in terms of the range of goods and services that Hastings influences and regularly deals with.

“That’s the great thing about the role – you can be talking about a hospital building project in the morning, and police uniforms in the afternoon . The cultures between different departments can vary considerably and they have different drivers. Therefore procurement has to apply a range of management approaches, and we have developed different selling points for different departments. Health might want help from us to improve clinical standards, while Education’s key focus might be around supply chain aspects to get the right books in the right place at the right time, said Caroline.

There have been frustrations though in the role. Jersey runs a JD Edwards ERP system. But , at times, there has been a lack of clarity for users in terms of what is available via corporate contracts and processes.

Caroline has sought to change the culture which existed and to gain government investment for an eProcurement platform to improve procurement processes and controls. The goal was to fundamentally change the way users across the public sector could gain access to the goods and services they required.

This e- procurement initiative was one of three workstreams that formed a  procurement transformation programme which began back in 2010, with the primary goal of saving money in an increasingly challenging financial environment, through improved procurement processes and performance.

And we’ll feature more about the programme in part 2 tomorrow...

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