Melinda Johnson in the procurement spotlight (and we escape the vampire hordes…)

Once a year, CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) invites all the Past Presidents of the Institute (well, the ones who are still alive anyway) to a get together of some sort. This year, it was a dinner at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham, last Friday evening, which was also attended by the members of the CIPS Council, who met on Friday. Many of the diners were also attending the CIPS Graduation ceremony on Saturday.

The evening was a celebration of CIPS 80th anniversary, and it was a historic event in a number of ways – not just as it featured the first performance at a Past President’s event by the Front Covers, David Smith’s (CIPS President) band. It was an enjoyable but somewhat surreal evening, for reasons which we will explain later...

The historic nature came because Friday was the last ever meeting of the CIPS Council. As we featured here and here, CIPS has decided to change its governance structure, and a new “ Congress” will be introduced to replace Council. We’ll have more on that later this week.

During the evening, I managed to have brief conversations with a couple of people about the Civil Service Reform Plan comment we featured here around commissioning versus procurement. I think it’s fair to say that senior CIPS executives and Officers are not too happy about matters; and we’ll come back to that topic tomorrow.

The surreal nature of our stay came because the hotel – which is huge – was hosting the Vampire Diaries fan convention over the weekend. So there were literally hundreds of (almost totally) female fans swarming around the hotel, the great majority in the 12-21 age group, attending this event to meet some of the stars of the show, buy fan material and so on.  Let’s just say some of us felt very old and somewhat overdressed when the girls started spilling out of their evening disco later on..! Indeed, half a dozen tried to gatecrash our function room, attracted by the dulcet tones of the  Front Covers. They didn’t stay long, even though we tried to tell them that David Smith was in fact Justin Bieber's Dad!

Indian wedding outside Metropole Hotel (nothing to do with Melinda Johnson)

To add to the surrealness, a full Indian wedding - with the groom on a white horse - was  parading outside the hotel as I checked out on Saturday morning. I started wondering whether the whole thing had been a dream...

But let’s major for today on some thoroughly good news, as last week proved to be very special for one person. Melinda Johnson, currently at the UK's Department for Education, and a CIPS Board member, has been appointed Group Procurement Director for the Department of Transport. That’s an SCS2 role in civil service grading terms, making her the most senior woman in public procurement (alongside Sally Collier of Cabinet Office) and one of the most senior procurement executives in government full stop.

And if that wasn’t enough, she was then asked last week by the CIPS Appointments Board to take on the role as the first Chair of the new CIPS Congress. Not a bad “double” – if I were her I might buy a lottery ticket this week...!

I’m delighted for her on both counts. I’ve known her since she was a young Policy and Research Manager for CIPS itself back over 10 years ago, working for Roy Ayliffe. She then went into a procurement advisory role in local government, if I remember correctly, before getting a senior role at Education. She is great with people, understands procurement inside out, but is still thoughtful about the profession and always open to ideas and improvement.

A few years back, I was a reviewer for the OGC Procurement Capability Review of the Department of Education. We were very impressed by what Johnson was achieving in the Further Education sector, even though the central Department had no real mandate or power over colleges. I asked a senior procurement leader who worked in that sector why they were working so well with the Department, and collaborating in a way we didn’t always see around the public sector. What was driving them to work in this way, we asked.

“Melinda told us to”, was the answer. “ We really like her, and she talks a lot of sense” he continued. “And let’s face it, we really don’t want to get her annoyed”!

That I thought summed her up nicely. Intelligent, sensible, persuasive and just an all-round good person. But with just that hint of steel within the velvet glove, and a no-nonsense northern attitude that cuts through the proverbial c**p, and helps her get things done.  She’ll need both her persuasiveness and firmness in Transport and with Congress, but I have no doubt she will succeed in both roles - so many congratulations to her for the dual success!

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Voices (5)

  1. Richard Ludlow:

    Congratulations Melinda!

  2. Rebecca Ditchburn:

    So pleased to hear this Melinda! Brilliant news!

  3. melinda.johnson:

    Thank you David – I’m delighted and excited by it all and really looking forward to getting started! Hope to see you soon. Melinda x

  4. David Atkinson:

    Well done Melinda. Excellent appointments.

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