CIPS Licence to Practise – no clarity and a failure of governance?

As well as our James Bond feature, and our video with the tragic case of the unlicensed buyer, we did ask some altogether more serious questions of CIPS about their “licence to practise” idea, under which you would have to obtain a professional licence before you were “allowed” to buy stuff. Our eleven questions included:

  •          Which organisations would be subject to this licensing – by size, ownership (public  sector, private sector limited companies, PLCs etc)?
  •          Which categories of spend would this apply to – direct, indirect, retail, works, construction etc?
  •          Would it apply globally or just to UK owned / domiciled businesses?
  •          What is the proposal for the body to provide governance over the licensing process?  (Note – this must be independent to the licence issuers).

etc, etc.

We submitted them to CIPS almost a month ago and we had a response last week. Here it is.

 “You’ve sent over some good questions  - so thank you.  We are overwhelmed by the response to this call for Licensing – we have received some excellent feedback, all fairly balanced and the overwhelming majority really positive which is great.  As we said in the paper however, the journey starts here.  So we haven’t gone through your questions one by one as the level of detail you are looking for is contained within our planned next steps.

Our Global Board of Trustees signed off the policy statement back in September with the intent that the framework would be finalised next month (December) in time for congress consultation.  That framework is established but it is not appropriate to communicate it externally without trustee agreement next month when we go back to them with the stepped journey, looking at both the self-regulation route and the longer term plan of a legal regulatory route.

There is still a great deal of work to be done, but we are absolutely committed to getting the profession ready for the next stage in its evolution. Please keep the debate going and stay engaged with us – all feedback useful”.

So the response is “overwhelmingly positive”. That’s interesting.  Doesn’t fit with the evidence here from comments we received,  so if you do feel positive, please comment. (And if you don’t, the same applies of course)!

I'm disappointed obviously by the response from CIPS and it would be interesting to know whether they really could answer our questions, but just won’t tell us yet, or whether they’re still trying to work out the details. It’s also interesting that this was presented as a “policy”, but it hasn’t yet been exposed to Congress consultation.

The relatively new CIPS Congress, you may recall, whilst not the ultimate governance body of CIPS any longer (as Council used to be), is supposed to advise the Board / Trustees on important matters of member interest. As the CIPS website says:

"Its role is to represent the interests of the global membership and act as the ‘conscience’ of CIPS by influencing and guiding the Board of Trustees and holding the Board accountable against our Charter and charitable objectives, values and ethos. Congress members form a communication channel between the members they represent and the leadership of the Institute". 

This issue is clearly of great interest and importance, yet was issued as a “policy” without prior Congress or Member input, when it should arguably have been badged as a “consultation”. So, it is still not a good idea (in my opinion), and moreover, looks like the first big failure of the new CIPS governance model, I'd suggest.

Final point. If anyone wants to write a piece here in favour of the idea - any CIPS Trustees for instance - you have an open invitation to do that. I'm sure you have my email address.

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Voices (6)

  1. Effwhitt:

    David Noble is indeed standing behind this and (verbally) calling for CIPS members to get behind it in a way that seems to brook no debate, as if it’s all been agreed and the audience are behind the curve….

    All a bit worrying.

  2. Ian R:

    This might go down well in the “new” markets that CIPS seems to have focussed a great deal of time on – Africa, Far and Middle East. I wonder if this is the main driver? Certainly in the UK public sector where the rules and regulations that govern our activity are already in a sense a form of licence to practise I just can’t see how this will improve anything. I doubt the Cabinet Office are taking this particularly seriously.

    Are they trying to reposition themselves away from public sector procurement?

    I agree with Lionel that this has the potential to send procurement back to the days when it is just a back office function. Just when we were starting to be seen as a more critical part of the business.

  3. Lionel J Botch:

    Oh dear. With the information presented so far from CIPS, this looks a bit of a disaster. Launch it before it is discussed at congress and then fail to answer any questions (I suspect they don’t have the answers yet) does not look good.

    This has the potential of going 2 ways.

    1) everyone is behind it, all the answers are in place and it becomes the norm……….

    2) It sets the world of procurement back numerous years if it fails.

    Everyone reading this excellent piece from Peter will know the problems the profession has had getting to the top table. If this ‘licence to practice’ fails, and now publicly fails, then there is a possibility of not being seen as important, just a back office support function.

    Furthermore, who gets to decide what you need to practice?

    Surely CIPS are not suggesting being anti competitive and creating a monopoly by only using a CIPS qualification. No right minded procurement professional could agree to that.

    I await further information on the practical aspects of this.

    I hope CIPS know what they are doing!

  4. Dan:

    Imagine if it was a procurement.

    A senior manager had come to you with an important project that they wanted you to go out to the market with. You go back to them with serious issues with it which puts its viability in doubt. Their response is “Don’t worry. We’ll get those sorted out down the line”. What would you think?

  5. Phoenix:

    This is quite obviously a huge howler. I don’t know whether it has the personal backing of the CEO or not but, either way, David Noble has a job on its hands reversing out of this little policy cul-de-sac while saving face. Ridicule is being visited upon our Institute and our profession. The new governance arrangements clearly don’t work – without proper checks and balances somebody’s daft idea has got through the net.

  6. Dave Orr:

    Every journey starts with one mis-step then…..

    Never mind consultation or detailed questions…..we are carrying on regardless and all detail is in our “Next Steps” i.e. we know best.

    Without challenge, procurement can never be effective…so hats off to CIPS for removing challenge in their own top-down plans.

    Not exactly “member-driven” is it?

    Irrelevance beckons surely?

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