The GO Awards – Crossrail and Martin Rowark scoop the top prizes

The GO (Government Opportunities) Awards last Wednesday night in Birmingham, organised by BiP Solutions, who provide a range of procurement services to the public sector, was a good event. There were  400 people in the lovely Hilton Metropole*, very much made up of the short-listed organisations rather than lots of sponsored tables. Indeed, there was a generally less commercial feel than the CIPS SM Awards - ironic perhaps given that BiP are a private firm. Having said that, Servest, the growing facilities management firm, who sponsored the entertainment (see below) did get to show a corporate video, which luckily was short and punchy enough not to bore the audience too much.

It's very much a devolved public sector event, with health, local government, housing associations and similar very well represented. So I picked up a little consternation that the big winners of the night weren't a local authority or health trust, but Crossrail, who (along with their associated rail colleagues) won four awards, including arguably the two big ones – the GO Leadership of the Year Award went to LUL Stations and Crossrail Portfolio, whilst Martin Rowark, Crossrail’s Procurement Director won Procurement Professional of the Year.

Clearly, we need to get closer here to what Crossrail are up to - there did sound like some interesting ideas, such as a programme for capturing innovative ideas from potential suppliers who don't win the main contracts.

RowarkRowark gave a very witty but short speech, hitting exactly the right note, but then the following day announced he was leaving Crossrail to go and advise Treasury (the UK government’s finance ministry) on Infrastructure.  I hope Rowark knows what he’s getting into in Treasury. It is an intensely political place – in every sense of the word – and has not historically had a high regard for commercial practitioners. Good luck to him anyway.

It did go on a bit (19 awards!), but the event stuck pretty precisely to the timetable, and whilst Grahame Steed of GO as the host was not exactly Rory Bremner or the other comedy stars who have hosted the CIPS SM Awards, he keep things on track admirably although he did start with a truly dreadful joke**.  And a big shout out to whoever chose the musical clips that were used as the winners approached the stage  - everything from the Foo Fighters to Jake Bugg and the Mumfords to  Carly Rae Jephsen, but all sounded very appropriate somehow.

Unfortunately Sally Collier, of the Crown Commercial Service, could not be there in person to make the opening address (Ministerial demands, I was told) but she sent a well-judged short video. She's actually become a very good presenter, and it started the evening well. She was one of the all star judging panel, so there obviously was real commitment from her and Cabinet Office to the event.

I wanted to know more about the winners - talking to one of the judges, he confirmed that there were some really innovative and interesting entries. Many of them seemed to focus on the wider aspects of procurement, such as the North West Construction Hub programme that has driven many new apprenticeships. There's a whole range of initiatives going on outside Whitehall which one might hope Cabinet Office would bear in mind and consider outside their core centralisation and 'beating up suppliers' objectives. Anyway, we'll try and feature more about some of the prize winners here over coming weeks.

Finally, at 10.45pm, the Front Covers got a significant proportion of the crowd up and dancing, with frontman and ex DWP / CIPS supremo David Smith showing off his new retirement hairstyle and permatan. Steve Harley's classic Come up and see me, make me smile was a highlight, with a mass sing-a long, and yes, there was a bit of Spend Matters dad dancing going on too. Anyway, the event did make me smile, and was rather moving at times, when you hear how excellent procurement performance is actually contributing directly not just to saving money, but also to improving and even saving lives.


*The traditional warm Birmingham greeting from the desk clerk when I arrived to check in - "What's yer name?"   Why waste your breath on words like 'hello', 'good afternoon' or 'can I help you'?


** "Did you see they've got a chess tournament going on in the hotel? All the players were checking in when I arrived, all telling everyone how good they were. I hate that, chess nuts boasting in an open foyer..."

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