GPS and Cabinet Office procurement – more integration to come, says Crothers

The excitement around centralising Whitehall procurement is coming thick and fast now!

After the CIPS push-back earlier today on Francis Maude’s ill-judged definition of procurement, we've got a short piece in Government Computing  based on a chat they had with Bill Crothers, Government CPO, at the Cabinet Office event I also attended on Monday.

Crothers talks about bringing together GPS (the operational arm) with the rest of the Cabinet Office procurement activities, such as the policy work and the work of the Crown Commercial Representatives.

Bill Crothers told Government Computing, "I think the catchword is integration. What we have is different components of the commercial landscape which are not necessarily integrated.  If you look at the Government Procurement Service (GPS), you've got the Crown relationships, you've got the policy group in Norwich, and they're not working as an integrated whole as much as they could..."

So that leads you to creating an integrated, commercial service. We should be bringing it together…. And so we'll make an announcement on that, probably in about a month... The buying that GPS needs to continue the journey… It manages about £11bn a year of which £5bn is in the centre of government. It doesn't provide a managed service for the whole £5bn. It needs to provide a managed service. It needs to be better integrated. So it's a progression."

So.. NOW we know why David Shields resigned!

Things become clearer. It did seem odd that he would simply up and go when by all accounts he doesn’t have another big job lined up. And he’s not a character who I could see deciding to simply chill out for a  few months...

A merger of GPS back into Cabinet Office would have many implications, but one would presumably be closer reporting of Shields to Crothers and perhaps Shields also losing his MD and “Accounting Officer” status. I don’t think he would have agreed to something that would look suspiciously like a demotion, with more interference and closer management from Whitehall, which is probably not a very positive aspect of the role.

And of course he may also have thought the whole idea of more integration was not something he could support, probably because it does seem... ill-advised?  (He said, politely).

To amplify that point, we’ll be back tomorrow with our first thoughts on the idea, and I’m trying to get some further information  from Cabinet Office. We may have that by then although I suspect it will take longer!

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Voices (11)

  1. Bill Atthetil:

    Through a little detective work, I’ve figured why Bill said what he said. This video told me everything I needed to know about what he knows about procurement.

    He was reading from a script…

    1. dan2:

      Those are interesting quotes on the ‘managed service’ aspect. What does that mean? Taking on the full lifecycle of the contract?

  2. Roy Ayliffe:

    One of the various reasons people like Francis Maude incorrectly describe procurement is that terms like “pre-procurement” are being used. This infers that procurement is the bit after “pre-procurement”, whereas procurement includes the pre stuff and contract management etc. In my organisation I have put into the Procurement Policy that there are 4 main phases to procurement, ie Pre-Sourcing, Sourcing (ie the bit that Francis Maude said was procurement), Contract Management & Post-Contract. I have responded to CIPS suggesting that they could follow up their “push back” with something which explains to government what procurement is, making use of the CIPS P&SM model on their website supported with quotes from high profile procurement people.

    1. Final Furlong:

      As I suggested recently, Minister Maude needs to meet a panel of world class procurement practitioners who could help him see what we can see… Preferably, with public sector knowledge, and/or at least with relevant experience and insights.

      And not the usual egomaniacal loons who float in from the “commercial sector” with ‘demonstrable’ track records (on LinkedIn) like “I was global CPO of Big Retail Now Big Bank PLC, and centralised procurement globally, while implementing Cat Man and SRM, and SAP (now Ariba), delivering cash savings of circa £1billion, while reducing my budget by 80%, while off-shoring the team to Bermuda (HQ) and Singapore (Operations) – all within 6 months. I left soon after 12 months but only after fully embedding the new model in all 80 countries….” Yawn.

      1. Disappointed!:

        …or a CPO with knowledge of procurement.

      2. David Atkinson:

        Leave me out of it….please….

  3. Ian Taylor:

    I fear that one of the many consequences of closer integration back into Whitehall will be a huge step back in the developing relationship between the local government consortia and GPS. Its been a difficult journey but there have been some good examples of how working together can deliver better results. If GPS are to become more focused on central government and its £5bn then there is bound to be less appreciation of the needs of the wider public sector. That might lead to a drawing back or more likely a one size fits all view that if a procurement is deemed good enough to be imposed on Whitehall then its good enough to be imposed on local government (or the police or fire and rescue or colleges). Lets hope somebody in the Cabinet office has some sort of clue about the wider public sector procurement world and the fact that it is a spend that is hugely greater than centrla government. I doubt it though.

  4. Tom Graham:

    What Bill Crothers means by integration is centralise everything and move further and further away from the needs of Government Departments. And then he wonders why they can’t get “buy in”. David Shields already had problems because GPS solutions offer a one-size-fits-all, take it or leave it service with very little pre-procurement activity and practically no contract management expertise. No wonder DS abandoned the sinking ship..

    1. Peter Smith:


      I too worry about the distance from the Departments – and you’re spot on re the buy-in . What I would say in GPS’ defence is that Shields was making big strides on the “pre-procurement” side of things. He recruited Marie Brennan from HMRC a while back and she was leading some very interesting work on that pre-procurement area – I saw some of it when I talked to them back end of 2012. But it was, and is, work in progress, and obviously contracts being put in place now may not have had the benefit of that work. Will the good work continue in areas like that and the spend analysis programme without Shields to drive it? We’ll see.

  5. Clark Kent:

    Perhaps they could think of a catchy name for this new integrated organisation; Commerce Office for Government perhaps.

  6. Bill Atthetill:

    Peter, what would we do without you! (We’d certainly be left in the dark – along with the other mushrooms.) It was very kind of Bill to let it out of the bag in advance of the intended announcement by the Minister and official channels. That’s what power does to some people….

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