Radio 4 on public procurement – Minister on the rack…

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Francis Maude's reputation as the most knowledgeable Minister ever in terms of public procurement took a beating the other evening during the BBC Radio 4 programme "A Bridge Too Far" which looked at "why so many public contracts go to foreign firms"? They don't but that's another matter..

You can access it here – it's worth listening to all of it, but the Maude section is 26 minutes in. We'll be covering the issues raised in more detail early next week, but we'll just feature the highlight for today....

The programme was about whether the UK could do more to help employment and the local economy through using public procurement in a more creative manner. The Maude moment came when Gerry Northam, the interviewer, asked him about the government in Wales and how their "community benefit" policy is considering these factors routinely in public tenders.

What about this, asked Northam? Why doesn't the rest of the UK do this?

"I don't know much about the detail of how that operates", admitted Maude.

But you're the Minster responsible for procurement, replied Northam, not unreasonably.

"I'm not responsible for what happens in Wales" said Maude, somewhat defensively.

Maude then talked about the overriding need for value for money, and how you couldn't go too far without breaking OJEU rules.

But Wales haven't had any challenges and are confident they're working legally, responded Northam.

"That's an experience we'll be glad to look at", was Maude's somewhat hesitant final comment...

So, not his finest hour. And certainly the procurement folk in Wales have in my experience been very open and wanted to swap experiences with OGC – then Cabinet Office - so I'm surprised Maude was so blind-sided by the question.

Anyway, a more detailed analysis of the programme to come..


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Voices (4)

  1. David Orr:

    From a Government that procured ONE table tennis table for President Obama as a National gift to the US of A from the UK and it was MADE IN CHINA, then this should come as no surprise. Mind you the Chinese manufacturer very prettily painted the two National flags for the US of A & the UK at each end.

    Just one simple call to Dunlop or the reseller asking “Where do you make your table tennis tables?” would have cracked it. Or looking on the box it came in or underneath it for the “MADE IN CHINA” bit – is that an EU regulation?

    I think the table tennis table MADE IN CHINA gaffe is, for this Government, a metaphor!

    It is about short term cost savings and not about value or the longer term.

    Good on Wales for setting an example to rival France & Germany.

    Good on Radio 4 for making a serious programme about it – will the Rt Hon Francis see to it that the BBC License Grant is reduced again & soon?

    But then the Cabinet Office have a secret MoU with IBM (I know I FOI’d to try & see it), so why is there any wonder at any of this?

    As the French say “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” or “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

  2. Edward Harkins:

    Well we must make allowances for this UK Coalition Government whose Prime Minster has just announced with great fanfare a new funding programme to “Get Britain building again”… but it applies to only England. Seems that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, for the Prime Minister, don’t count as part of ‘Britain’ (or that ‘England’ is ‘Britain’?). So it’s not surprising that Minster Maude’s in a muddle over one part of something called the UK.

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