Sam Walsh and Bill Crothers – Two Different Challenges For CIPS!

So, despite our suggestions and to our surprise, Sam Walsh, the President of CIPS, has not resigned (or been asked to resign, we assume) following the issue of a payment made to a presidential adviser in Guinea while he was in a senior role at Rio Tinto. (See here and here for the full story).

There have been no recent developments in the story, but various authorities are presumably looking into whether there is any case to answer in the courts. But all is quiet at the moment, and we can understand Walsh’s (and CIPS’) point of view. Would standing down from the CIPS role look like an admission of guilt? If he is confident about his own behaviour, why should he resign?

It is also interesting that, despite most of the people we spoke to directly feeling he should stand down, there has been little grass-roots pressure from CIPS members for this to happen. Perhaps they just don’t care much about who represents them as President, or they have agreed with Walsh and the CIPS Trustees that staying on is appropriate.

So, the test now will be whether he can be an effective President. We’ve had a series of generally good and hard-working Presidents, who have got around branch meetings and other CIPS events, and also sometimes represented the Institute in more private forums, which can be just as important. Will Walsh be able to do that, being based in Australia and knowing that the media coverage, which has died down a bit for now, could come back at any time? We will have to see, but simply showing up at the annual dinner is not enough for him to be seen as a good President.

As we said before, there are pros and cons about appointing senior CEO types into that role, as opposed to senior CPOs who are embedded in the profession and have some track record of working with CIPS. And CIPS' The Appointments Board has made a couple of other “interesting” decisions recently, particularly appointing Bill Crothers to the Board of Trustees.

Crothers was not really a supporter of CIPS, or the “procurement profession” in his time as government’s Chief Commercial Officer, and indeed was one of the key people who changed the whole definition to “commercial” rather than procurement. We’re not saying he was wrong to do this, but he always talked about “commercial skills” and brought in bankers and generalist business people to top “commercial” roles.

However, he is a qualified accountant, an ex-Accenture partner and has been a trustee of other charities, as well as having a very sharp brain and a pretty sharp tongue! So he can potentially add value, and perhaps this is a brave move by CIPS – keep your friends close but your enemies closer, as they say. He certainly won’t be afraid of telling the Board why he didn’t think much of CIPS, and perhaps that is what is needed!

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