Exclusive! John Collington stands down from CIPS Board

John Collington, the Government Chief Procurement Officer at the Cabinet Office, has decided to stand down from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Board of Management, where he was serving as Deputy Chairman.

He told me that he feels  “all my working time should be spent on delivering the Procurement Reform strategy, specifically supporting the deficit reduction and growth agendas and on improving civil service procurement capability”.

He also pointed out that central Government is still well represented on the CIPS Board by two first class people, Melinda Johnson (Dept of Education) and of course the President, David Smith of DWP.

I suspect the workload thing is a real issue, but there are also rumours that he may have perceived some conflicts of interest – as Government CPO, he’s obviously involved in ideas such as the “Procurement Academy” which was proposed some time ago. It’s likely that there will be contracts placed with external bodies for that and one assumes CIPS will be interested in the opportunity. That could have put Collington in a tricky position.

Whether or not that’s true, he’s shown a desire to do the right thing for CIPS and the Cabinet Office, and while it puts more pressure on the CIPS President (the two other CIPS “officers” are both based outside the UK), it feels like a good and honourable decision.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in a senior CIPS role in a few years’ time anyway.

Might it make David Noble also consider whether it is appropriate for him as the Chief Executive of CIPS to sit on the Government’s procurement steering group? We won’t labour the point again, but he could have some of the same conflicts if we move into that commercial contracting activity, and we have commented previously on his lack of apparent desire to defend the profession from attack by Ministers now he sits “on the inside”.  And where will CIPS be if Labour win the next election – will the Institute still be perceived as neutral, or as a body that has spent years as cheerleaders for the Coalition?

Anyway... the end of last week also saw the news that Bill Crothers, CPO at the Home Office, is joining Cabinet Office as Director of Supplier Relationships reporting to Ian Watmore (Permanent Secretary).

Two observations on that – strange that he doesn’t report to Collington, as one might have thought that the Government’s CPO should have relationships with top suppliers as part of his remit. And it strengthens the hold that Accenture alumni have on top Cabinet Office jobs in the efficiency-related part of the organisation at least  – with Watmore himself, Collington, Crothers, Katie Davis (on loan to the NHS at the moment) all ex Accenture.

Even Liam Maxwell, Windsor and Maidenhead Councillor and on loan from Eton College as Director of ICT Futures in the Cabinet Office, started his career with Accenture before he got the calling to the Conservative Party and teaching! Throw in the McKinsey contingent (Davidson, Kelsey) and there’s hardly anyone at the top level there who hasn’t graced the halls of our finest consulting firms...  good preparation for tough jobs, or a bit of a clique?

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Voices (2)

  1. Elephant in the room:

    With a £1trn domestic debt it strikes me odd that it has taken him 18 months to figure out what his priorities are!

  2. Final Furlong:

    “All my working time should be spent on delivering the Procurement Reform strategy, specifically supporting the deficit reduction and growth agendas and on improving civil service procurement capability”.

    Perhaps its just a subtle shot across Mr Smith’s bows saying “As for myself, I’m far too busy running procurement across the entire civil service aside from, erm, the MOD, and Health, and the DWP, and the MOJ, and…”.

    At least he doesn’t have to manage the relationships with central government’s largest suppliers – that’s now someone else’s job.

    Still, Mr Collington can free up enough (considerable) time to wander around the country providing the same presentation to lots of different groups. If he ever gets bored, he could always sell procurement for a living.

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