Exclusive! David Smith did not “stand down” as UK Government Deputy CPO

The announcement last week that Bill Crothers had been appointed Government Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) is still having reverberations round the public procurement world. We asked Cabinet Office a couple of what we thought were simple questions last Wednesday. The first was “what grade is this new expanded CPO role”?

We’ll leave that one, the Cabinet Office response, and why it is more significant than it might look, for another post later just to keep you in suspense!

David Smith

Our second one was, “did David Smith stand down as Deputy Government CPO”?  We just wanted clarification on that given the announcement (see below). Eventually, a while later, we got this reply.

“The deputy CPO post is a new expanded role in the same way the CPO post has been expanded. David Smith already holds a number of significant posts and would not have had capacity to also carry out the new expanded deputy CPO role, which will be carried out by Sally Collier. This view is shared by all involved”.

“All involved”, really?

Because we’ve now heard that Smith, the Commercial Director at the Department of Work and Pensions (the largest civil Department in Government), and CIPS President, has told senior procurement leaders in other Departments that he did not stand down as Deputy CPO.

Therefore, we assume he was somewhat surprised when he saw the announcement from Cabinet Office last week that said “Bill will be supported in his role as head of the profession by Sally Collier, as Deputy Chief Procurement Officer...”

(Incidentally, I have sympathy for Collier getting caught up in this - I’m sure it’s not her fault).

Whether this was incompetence from Cabinet Office or something more malicious – and I suspect the former – it doesn’t look very good. They may have assumed Smith wouldn’t want to continue as Crothers’ deputy, although that seems a big assumption, and it might have been sensible to check with him first. Whilst he might have expected at least a chance to pitch for the CPO job himself, he worked diligently as Collington’s deputy and may well have done the same for Crothers.

But now, he may feel like reviewing his commitment to the wide range of activities he and his team have taken on under the GPS central banner – work as a Crown Commercial Representative, running major procurements under the GPS common categories programme and so on. He’s got a huge agenda anyway within the DWP as well, including the vital commercial aspects of the Work Programme and the IT contracts (with HMRC) around Universal Credit, so it’s not as if he’s short of work. And he would also be sought after in the private sector world I’m sure, given his knowledge and profile, if he decided to jump.

I know him well enough to predict he’s not someone to react hastily, or throw his toys out of his pram. But when Cabinet Office are trying to build the case for more collaboration, treating the most experienced, and one of the most respected CPOs in Whitehall (and more widely) in this careless manner doesn’t seem like a very sensible strategy.

I went on a trip last week to see some old colleagues who are now brewing fine and delicious Craft Ales very successfully.  We’ll be featuring more on that topic soon, and the fascinating supply chain issues around brewing, but many thanks to my friend Bob Beveridge for organising that particular brewery drinking event so professionally and competently....


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Voices (4)

  1. TimBya:

    Bob Beveridge – really? Obviously can organise a ‘drink up’ in a brewery

  2. Phoenix:

    What a shower! Muppets.

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