FE colleges Procurement Conference

I spoke at Empower 2010 yesterday, the  procurement conference for the Further Education sector.

As the Who so memorably put it,

"I'm a substitute for another guy, I look pretty tall but my heels are high"...

I was standing in for a senior civil servant - significantly taller than me  - who had to pull out because of the election 'purdah'.

Anyway, I talked about my views on government efficiency and what was to come after the election - I tried to scare the audience but felt they were very aware of the difficult times to come, and were impressively  'up for it' in terms of the challenge for public sector  procurement people to make real savings.

I also met some old friends and made some new ones; including Florence Gregg, who is an active commentator on Linked In and SM blogs and runs her own consulting business.  She is a real expert on EU procurement issues, and we had an interesting discussion about the number of challenges and infractions increasing - we agreed that this is only likely to become a bigger issue.  Also interesting to see the success of  In-tend, run out of the University of Sheffield, which is providing an e-Sourcing platform to many colleges and unis and beginning to expand outside that field.   Steve South runs it - alongside his day job as CPO for the University - "just the 80 hours a week" as he put it.  But he's someone who is passionate about improving public procurement and it was very good to meet him.

FE was a bit of a backwater going back a few years, but with support from DCSF / DIUS (much credit due to Melinda Johnson) and a lot of effort from inside the sector, it has really come a long way.  The Crescent Consortium acts as the collaborative procurement organisation for the sector, and it was good to meet their head, Peter Brewer.  They've been very successful as well, and  good to discover he's another musician in the procurement world!

The event looked like a commercial success as well - about 200 delegates and a busy exhibition with I would guess 50+ firms displaying their wares.  Well worth the trip to the lovely Hilton Metropole (Birmingham) and the most confusing hotel car park in the world....

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Voices (2)

  1. Drew:

    Peter, I very much enjoyed the presentation. It was great to hear you talk about the need for buyers to increase the importance placed on cost when they weight their award criteria – very necessary when the public sector uses procurement to deliver more than just the specified goods or services. Clear thinking about the public sector’s priorities when it spends money is essential.

    With regards to the question that was raised about what support and guidance is needed in the current environment I think that a spotlight needs to be shone on all facets of procurement legislation – is it not the case that the legislation is sometimes used as an excuse for all too passive engagement with suppliers and the supply markets, and that a balanced understanding of the risks and opportunities would result in better outcomes?

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