Hughes / Day Report on Public Procurement – part 6, “People”

We didn’t quite finish our comments on the Jon Hughes/ Professor Marc Day report on public procurement before Christmas so let’s remedy that now  - then we’ll be back shortly with some overarching comments and thoughts on the entire thing. (Previous chapters are covered here, here, here, here and here!)

Their final “pillar” (chapter) is "People" which we could argue is THE most important of the lot, because, as we all know, you can have the best strategy, plans, process, technology... and it will all count for nothing if the people aren’t capable and motivated. Hughes and Day recognise this - “it is the number one challenge and opportunity to address”.

They analyse the numbers of people involved in “procurement” ( in the widest sense) – there could easily be quarter of a million people involved, they reckon, with a total cost of £4B pa around the public sector! Then they look at why previous reform has failed in the past; a very interesting analysis. They conclude that there have been three major reasons:

  • Inappropriate and weak models of leadership and governance
  • Undue reliance on the procurement community to operate as facilitative change agents
  • Actual capacity and capability to implement reform was simply lacking

Basically, the procurement community did not have the authority, the senior level support or indeed the capability to driver through significant change. And that seems to me a pretty good diagnosis from my experience.

Hughes and Day believe that, in order to make the necessary change, there must be five levels of leadership, from politicians through organisational leaders to CPOs and procurement staff.  They also  suggest a cadre of “procurement orientated non-executives and external advisers” to support internal leaders.

Then we get to one of the central issues with the whole report and the whole future of public procurement.  As the authors say:

Building real depth of capability and competence across defined target groups requires considerable investment in structures, processes and people. It will not be at all easy to secure such funds at a time of substantial cutbacks, which is why throughout this report a business case / return on investment approach has been central to our argument.

That takes us nicely into wrapping up our detailed review of the report and leads into further discussion (to come) around the chances of success and how the ideas might be taken forward. Because that paragraph sums up the biggest problem – whether there is any real appetite for the investment needed, even though we in the profession may be totally convinced of the business case.

Anyway, more on that to come, but for the moment, do read the report if you haven’t already, and congratulations to the authors for a fine piece of work.  As we’ve said before, there is much of value in it for any procurement professional, public or private sector, and I would urge you to download it now.  

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