Labour Procurement Report Makes Daftest Recommendation Ever, CIPS Rejoices

A new report giving a view of public procurement from a couple of bodies connected to the Labour Party was published yesterday. The report was;

“... prepared for the Labour Finance and Industry Group and the Society of Labour Lawyers by an authoritative task force of lawyers, procurement professionals, trade union officers and business experts, (it) busts the myth that only economic criteria can be taken into account when buying goods and services for the public sector and calls on Labour to introduce a procurement policy that delivers social value and community benefits as well as competitive prices for public contracts”.

With the UK general election less than two months away, and the parties closely balanced in the opinion polls, it is interesting to see what the authors of this report have come up with - and a quick initial look shows some welcome if somewhat obvious thoughts. The report recommends the appointment of a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for public procurement; a professionally resourced procurement and contract management function within the civil service; and opening up central government contracting to SMEs.

All well and good, and we will read it and comment in more depth shortly. But what caught our attention was this incredible statement (our highlighting) in the Executive Summary.

“... to deliver the procurement polices we have recommended, it essential to create a professionally resourced procurement and contract management function within the civil service across Central Government. We recommend that this function should have a benchmark of at least one procurement professional per £1m of procurement expenditure. This is not only about having a sufficient number of procurement professionals in government, but also about their being held in equal esteem, with the same training opportunities and career progression as other civil service roles”.

Hang on a minute. If central government procurement spend is around £45 billion annually, which the report says and sounds about right, and we have one procurement professional for every £1 million spent, then that means 45,000 procurement professionals in central government!

That’s incredible – half the entire civil service would be CIPS members! MOD on its own would have 20,000 procurement staff, DWP over 5,000. And so on. Procurement would in fact rule the world, and the additional cost would I guess be a mere £2 billion or so a year in terms of the additional people. We would of course have to recruit those staff from China, as the only country that could possibly provide another 40,000 or so procurement staff quickly.

Now it is hard to believe that they mean this. It felt immediately we read that like someone had lost a factor of ten somewhere – one professional per £10 million would not be ridiculous, although probably still higher than what we see now. You would also expect there to be economies of scale for larger departments (you don’t need 10 times as many staff if you spend £1 billion as opposed to £100 million). In fact, it looks like this is an error or typo. Later on in the report, it says:

To do so, we recommend that Labour should adopt the Welsh Government's policy on professional resourcing of the procurement function. This states that:

"Procurement expenditure should be subject to an appropriate level of professional involvement and influence, adopting the initial benchmark of a minimum of one procurement professional per £10 million of expenditure."

Anyway, I emailed the Labour Finance and Industry Group yesterday afternoon to query this and they have not replied, so let’s see how they respond now. And we will look more seriously shortly at what I hope are the more sensible recommendations in the report.

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Voices (4)

  1. B+t:

    Why replace? Beds are comfier

  2. Sam.Unkim:

    Cool . Can the NHS play too ?.
    Our Hospital has a non-pay spend of £200 million and I am sure we could close 200 patient beds, and replace them with desks, ready for the buyer influx.

  3. IanR:

    Sounds like a great idea, combined with the governments target of reducing procurement timescales to 120 days from advertisement to award, we can let one contract and have 245 days annual leave.

  4. Dave Mischief:

    On this basis every Procurement Professional MUST vote Labour. One procurement professional for every £1 million spent will, even with the influx from China, increase salaries and job security dramatically.

    There would also be increase the sales within the British motor industry, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls Royce and even Jaguar Land Rover for those only part qualified staff……

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