Exclusive – Cabinet Office put the procurement squeeze on UK Government’s top suppliers

Part 1 - the background

I was able to have a lengthy conversation last week with a senior UK Cabinet Office official who is working on the ‘top suppliers’ initiative (driving savings from central Government’s major suppliers). It was fascinating and I must say I came away far more impressed than I expected to be about the process that has been undertaken over the last few months.

Now, before all our private sector readers switch off, I would even suggest that there are elements of this programme that could be usefully considered by any organisation, public or private, looking to achieve better value from their major suppliers.

The programme was created by the new coalition government soon after last May’s election. It was met by some scepticism (including from me) based on the public sector's previous experience in both collaborative procurement across major Departments, and in looking to manage top suppliers in some sort of cross-Government 'Supplier Relationship Management' sense. Indeed, I seem to recall that one of my first pieces of consulting work, back in around 2002, was looking at some of the aspects of how Whitehall might co-ordinate management of top suppliers better. Nine years later.. and perhaps we have some success at last!

So over the next days, we'll go into this programme in some depth and describe the process that has been followed, including the key role played by Ministers; we'll then look at what benefits seem to be emerging from the programme (although as you might expect, certain aspects of the outcomes are still commercially confidential); and then we'll look at where the programme goes from here, and the role of the soon to be appointed 'Crown Commercial Representatives'.

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Voices (3)

  1. Alex:

    No press releases yet, Christine, because unlike the previous government, this one is trying to avoid claiming savings three times over… once announcing what they hope will be saved, once what they think is being saved, and once what they believe might have been saved. And none of them, of course, were ever quite the same number. It’s spin like that which undermines public confidence in government reforms, and the Cabinet Office is right to wait until this massive and complex programme has progressed further before it announces hard savings figures.

    Also of course, this exercise is hugely commercially sensitive to these suppliers. It’s quite possible that in the negotiation process, the suppliers asked for the government to act with tact when it comes to the form and timing of announcement of savings figures. If I were Maude, that would seem like a reasonable concession if it meant getting serious supplier engagement and meaningful cost savings.

  2. Christine Morton:

    So, how much have they saved?

    And WHY hasn’t there been a SINGLE PRESS RELEASE about that?!

    So much for transparency in government! This programme makes me think we’re going backwards, not forwards.

    I’m still in the skeptics camp, Peter. Show me the money!

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