UK Public Procurement – who is doing what? (Making sense of the Cabinet Office)

We're still taking in the publication of UK Government spend data last Friday (and hoping someone might do some clever spend analytics so we can make more sense of it), so will no doubt come back to that again in the near future.  But more about the Cabinet Office, now clearly the seat of all power in Government procurement matters.

We pointed out the other day that Nigel Smith is still on the Cabinet Office (CO) organisation chart, months after he left as CEO of the Office of Government Commerce.  It also wasn't clear who was reporting to whom from their business plan; and I was also curious about a couple of the new faces in Ian Watmore's 'Efficiency and Reform Group ' (ERG).  One of those, Katharine Davidson, was (according to my sources) 'close to the Minister' and 'a key person to talk to about strategic efficiency and procurement issues'.

So I did a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which has come up with these responses.

1. Telling me where people worked before their CO jobs (which I asked out of curiosity)  is exempt from FOI because it is 'personal information' (that didn't occur to me as a possible response I must admit).  So there are some limits to the Government's admirable stance on transparency...

2. Alison Littley, CEO of Buying Solutions reports directly to Ian Watmore, as does William Jordan who was Deputy to Nigel Smith.  The other senior OGC folk report to Jordan.

3. John Collington (JC) reports to Watmore and has himself 'one direct report'.

4. Most of the appointments within Watmore's team were made from other Departments, without competition ('managed moves') and on loan e.g. JC and Katie Davis from the Home Office, Antonia Romeo from the Foreign Office.  I gleaned their previous roles via Google given the FOI blank.

5. The exception is Katharine Davidson.  She has been appointed - without competition as far as I can establish - on an 'STFTA' which I assume is a 'short-term fixed-term appointment'.  Or something like that.  I did ask for a jargon interpretation but CO haven't replied.   Her previous role (according to the Telegraph) was Head of Implementation for the Conservative Party. My research (LinkedIn) suggests she is also an ex-McKinsey alumni.  Either that or a doctor in Minnesota, which seems unlikely....

So, what can we draw from this?

Firstly, if you believe in competition as a key driver of performance, it seems disappointing that none of the new roles in the group that is driving efficiency across Government has been openly advertised or competed.  Not saying they're not all brilliant people, but even so... it might have been worth seeing who was available out in the wide world.

Secondly, John Collington has been given a huge task (setting up the centralised  procurement model for Government) without any support or direct 'control' over ex-OGC staff, or indeed anyone else except his one direct report, to help make it happen.  Of course that could still change.

Thirdly, we probably should have guessed that McKinsey (directly or via alumni) would be close to the seat of power!

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