Lord Maude Interview In Supply Management Pulls Its Punches

The new issue of Supply Management magazine features an interview with Francis Maude, now Lord Maude, who was the “Minster for Procurement” in the 2010-15 UK government.

It is an interesting read, even if the interviewer is not exactly taking the Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Marr approach. A number of comments and assertions by Maude go unchallenged, and some interesting areas are not addressed at all. But Maude is speaking at the CIPS Middle East Conference and Awards in Abu Dhabi today actually, and his right-hand man in Cabinet Office Bill Crothers is now on the CIPS Board, so you’re not going to get Supply Management giving him too hard time a time, understandably.

We have mixed feelings about his record, and might have asked a few more pointed questions. In the interview he makes much of the work he led around getting to grips with the top suppliers to government, and much of that was undoubtedly good. But we’re somewhat cynical about some of the savings he claims, having heard stories from departments that the amazing “deals” negotiated in Cabinet Office through this process in some cases turned out to be poorer value than those already in place at department level.

He admits to some regrets about the creation of Crown Commercial Service, but seems to blame the issues we have seen on the fact that it was formed from existing staff, rather than following the Government Digital Service model of a whole new team and organisation. But surely that was partly his fault – if he is having a dig at the likes of Sally Collier, which he appears to be, surely he as Minister could have decided she was not the person to lead CCS? And he is silent on the somewhat farcical process that is now playing out, where the two years or so of work that he forced through to centralise many elements of procurement into CCS is now being unwound by Malcolm Harrison and the new CCS team, with work going back to departments.

We understand why he and Crothers were impatient for certain things to happen, but they drove a strategy there that has proved to be pretty disastrous. (Unless someone else comes along in two years’ time and says that Harrison is wrong of course and goes back to the Maude / Crothers plan … these things happen in government)!

The interview does not touch on the shared services programme either, something else that has fallen way short of expectations. However, there were successes under Maude, such as the rapid introduction of the new EU directives into the UK, and there is no doubt he did much to raise the profile of procurement and commercial work generally. We have not seen such enthusiasm and energy in that space from his two successors as “Minister for Procurement”, Matt Hancock and Ben Gummer – not yet anyway. Of course we may have another new Ministerial face in six weeks’ time.

Maude’s final comment is that someone did get “fired for buying IBM” – in the context of the old adage that “no-one ever got fired … ” etc. He says this as a positive, that he changed the culture, but we find this sacking story very hard to believe. Anyone know who the supposed “victim” was? We suspect this is apocryphal.

If you have a copy of the magazine, the interview is worth a read. It does not appear to be online – not at time of writing anyway – but it may appear at some point I guess. And good luck to everyone competing for the awards in Abu Dhabi tonight!

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  1. Duncan Brock:

    Lord Maude gave an excellent speech at the MENA conference yesterday in Abu Dhabi which generated a lot of interest and discussion about how both public and private sector organisations could implement some of the initiatives outlined in the article.

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