CIPS “supports” public procurement after Cameron’s criticism

No music this weekend; but this is the statement (on the CIPS website here) from David Noble, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, following the PM's speech calling public procurement staff "enemies of enterprise".

Was David Cameron right to criticise procurement in the public sector?

"Given the scale of the public deficit problem, it is unsurprising that David Cameron has made some strong statements about the role and effectiveness of public sector procurement. It is a fact of public and private sector life that large contracts are not always handled by procurement professionals. Because of a conflict of targets, other departments may make the final decision with procurement acting only in an advisory capacity.

It’s a laudable aim that the Government is encouraging 25% of public spend to go to SMEs. As the professional institute for procurement, we support the work done by local business enterprises and recognise the value, innovation and creativity SMEs can bring to any economy. The SME initiative however, is not that straightforward. Making the right professional decision should be at the core of procurement and supply best practice, and making the right decision, in this case, for the taxpayer is paramount. We are working with the UK Government on a variety of projects, including acting as a key adviser on the Procurement Excellence Board so we anticipate improvements will be made.

Understanding the value the procurement profession can bring is fundamental to the success of any organisation. As the professional body for the profession, we have a role in highlighting and communicating the importance of fairness and professionalism in streamlining government buying practices to increase efficiency and value for money, whether the contract is awarded to a large corporation or an SME."

So what do we think of that?

1. The title is a bit odd. Putting it as a question - if CIPS doesn't know the answer, then who does? And it is not a very assertive response.

2. The tone is not particularly supportive of a large group of CIPS members. I would have expected a bit more of a clear rebuttal- 'enemies of enterprise' was a ridiculous and unfair comment and deserves that (see my letter to the PM here).

3. But the point that the SME initiative "is not that straightforward" is a good one, well made.

4. Noble is in a difficult position - as he sits on the Cabinet Office  'Procurement Excellence Board" he may feel he has a foot in both camps.  And of course CIPS gets a lot of revenue from  the public sector - both directly and indirectly (membership fees) - so has to tread a little carefully.

5. So perhaps it isn't a bad compromise statement. But I can't help thinking that the CIPD or CIM would have been a lot stronger if the PM had stood up and had a go at the Government HR or Marketing communities in the same way.

What do you think? It's your Institute (if you're a member of course) - so, particularly if you're in the public sector, do you feel this is a good reply on your behalf?

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Voices (3)

  1. Roy Ayliffe:

    I agree with Peter’s disappointment with the CIPS CEO’s response and that other professional bodies would have been much more robust; I would add that CIPS itself would definitely have been far more robust in the last decade when CIPS had a Director who was responsible for ensuring that CIPS actively & proactively represented the profession at every opportunity.

    Re Peter’s point 4 re the CIPS CEO’s “difficult position”, if by being on the Cabinet Office ‘Procurement Excellence Board” impedes CIPS from doing the right thing, plus acting in tune with its Charter, CIPS should either a) make it clear to the Cabinet Office that it will respond/comment on a range of procurement issues as an independant body or b) resign from this Board.

  2. Philip Orumwense:

    I thought that Ian Watmore’s letter to the Guardian was good;extolling the virtues of being a civil servant, the extent of their professionalism, their contributions to the huge economic recovery and much more importantly the vast array/swathe and range of specialisms that exists within the public sector ranging from buying nuclear war heads, magnetic scanners, financial services, IT services to envelopes, facilities management etc.

    Ian went on to make the case that Civil Servants were much more employable in the private sector than some private sector employers would think.

    At a time when government is shedding a few jobs here, there and every where, one can’t help but think that such statements (the PM’s) can be demoralising and at worst off putting for potential and would be employers of someof the supposedly inept public service procurement officials.

  3. Christine Morton:

    I liked your response much much better Peter!

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