Crown Commercial Representatives – 99 Problems (well, 9 issues anyway)

So , what do we think about the UK government’s appointment of new Crown Commercial Representatives? Here are a few questions. Not 99 problems maybe, as Jay-Z would put it, but certainly 9 issues.

1. Is there still significant cost to be taken out of government contracts, or has the first wave of CCR activity generated most of the benefit already?

2. Are the major suppliers going to feel even more victimised by getting set upon by these “heavies”, and less likely to offer any innovation to the government – will they just put “UK Government” firmly in the “cash cow” section of their Boston Consulting Group customer matrices?

3. Is it a kick in the teeth for the procurement profession as a whole that only one of these “business leaders” coming in to do the role has any procurement background or experience? Isn’t the procurement profession supposed to be the source of expert commercial negotiators in business?

4. Is it a kick in the teeth for procurement people in government that Ministers feel they need this help to get better results for their departments?

5. Is this in effect part of a slow process of outsourcing public sector procurement? The potential MOD DE&S GoCo would be another element of this. And how long until Francis Maude announces a JV or privatisation for the operational arm of GPS (like the Behavioural Unit and the PRINCE2 / ITIL business in the Cabinet Office)?

6. What makes these people (the new CCRs) capable and appropriate to negotiate on behalf of the taxpayer? Have they had formal negotiation training? Do they understand the academic underpinning for negotiation ? Or is there just a simple assumption that successful business person = great negotiator?

7. Francis Maude made the audacious statement that the appointment of CCRs was part of skills transfer to the public sector. Can anyone explain that? How will the CCRs bring about any sustainable improvement in government’s own procurement capability?

8. Is this where some of the Procurement Investment Fund money (the Government Procurement Service surplus that was supposed to go into improving procurement skills across government) has gone? This programme is probably going to cost something approaching half a million a year.

9. Does the concept of re-negotiating existing deals subvert the entire basis of public sector procurement (see some of the comments on our last piece)? Is it legal, do the CCRs understand what they can and can’t do, and does it disadvantage other firms (for instance, if a renegotiation is linked to a contract extension)?

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First Voice

  1. Bill Atthetill:


    1a: yes;

    1b: yes, because none of it was real cash in the first place (well none that the NAO could find), so it’s still there…;

    2a: no, because they’re just as stunned as anyone – anyone with a modicum of common sense – that it didn’t happen years ago. But it won’t stop them from having a moan. And since when have they ‘offered’ innovation – it’s like finding a piece hay in a needlestack. They offer variation not innovation.

    2b: we’re there already – especially with large consultancies and large firms. For every £1 spent on delivering a product or service the in private sector, it costs between £10-50 to deliver a similar product or service in the public sector;

    3a: yes

    3b: yes

    4: yes, but have replaced them with ill-fitting false teeth that have little or no bite. Consultancy houses must be quaking in their sandals. Rumour has it that senior Accenture staff may start wearing ties again. (For anyone currently working at Accenture a ‘tie’ is a “long piece of cloth worn for decorative purposes around the neck or shoulders, resting under the shirt collar and knotted at the throat. Variants include the ascot tie, bow tie, bolo tie, zipper tie, cravat and the clip-on tie.”);

    5: yes, embracing the worst practice philosophies of “if you don’t understand it, get rid of it” and, everyone’s favourite, “outsource the problem”;

    6: the answer to 6a, b and c, is 6d;

    7a: no – entrepreneurial skills, maybe?

    7b: the answer to this one is easy: they will coach and mentor all 3,500 procurement professionals on their road to success. In 3 years’ time, we will only need 350 of them;

    8a: no, because Wild Bill is going to give all of the PIF income back to Treasury because they can’t be seen to spend any more money on ‘data’ and, importantly (as he said at the PASC), “I doesn’t understand it” (see above philosophies);

    8b: …..and the new central team/empire…..and the new ‘Complex Transactions Team’ (all recruited in from private sector…)….will cost a lot more than £500k per annum…(your decimal point could well be in the wrong place…);

    9a to z: don’t know, who knows, not sure, don’t have clue, no idea (and, frankly, nor do they…)

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