The GO Awards – Public Sector Procurement All Dressed Up With Somewhere To Go!

PLast Thursday’s National Government Opportunities (GO) Excellence in Public Procurement Awards 2015/16 at the Midland Hotel Manchester was notable for a record attendance, with 470 folk somewhat packed into the room, and an enthusiastic (rowdy) audience that even the compère, the statuesque Becky Meehan (six foot five in her heels) struggled to control at times!

Compared to other awards events, this is very much an evening for the organisations shortlisted, and it is all the better for that – very few tables of bored corporate hospitality victims here. It does go on a bit, like most of these evenings, but I was very impressed by the winners who were allowed to say a few words. Unlike the Oscars, everyone actually did keep it to a few well-chosen, sincere and often moving words. And we even had a short procurement poem from Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles of Scotland) which was very good - if you are reading this, please contact me, I would love to publish it!

Our Editor Nancy Clinton and I spent a fair bit of the evening rushing around interviewing some of the entries I found interesting when I read them as a judge. We will be featuring those here shortly, and our thanks to everyone who gave up some of their valuable time to have a chat.

So here are some other random observations from the evening;

  • It was a sell-out and there was a bit of panic as the organisers struggled to find seats for a handful of folk who weren’t on the seating plan! So good signs really that it will be even bigger next year, and well done to BiP Solutions and everyone involved for a very successful event.
  • The hotel is very impressive, service was excellent (apart from the charge for the cloakroom) and the food was ... OK. Actually, our Editor, Nancy Clinton, who was with me, is vegetarian and I think her meal was better than mine.
  • I don’t know how Kennedy, the after dinner entertainment, did some of his mind reading tricks. But it was very clever, particularly working out that Ed Sheeran and Thailand were the two answers that random guests had chosen.  I assume it was "Priming" but I couldn’t work out how he did it. Memorising the deck of cards was easy compared to that. Impressive
  • Sally Collier, CEO of Crown Commercial Services has become a really good speaker. She gave a short pre-dinner address and she was amusing, relevant, and held the audience’s attention. Very good indeed. (My apologies for not coming to say hello properly Sally, I’ll blame the interviewing duties).

One point that Collier made though got a bit of a surpressed chuckle from the crowd. She said that procurement was going to be even more important during the next government as money gets even tighter – she’s right of course and that was a good message for the delegates.

Then she talked about the new EU regulations which in the UK came into force that very day. “Be empowered by the new rules” she said. “Be bold, take the initiative – there is no case law”. Now she obviously meant that as an encouragement to be bold, but you could sense what every practitioner in the room was thinking at that moment.

“Yes, there is no case law – and I’m damn sure I don’t want to be the first procurement person to provide some, when I end up in Court losing to an aggrieved bidder”!

Boldness and initiative – within the law. That’s the goal of course. Anyway, we’ve also pulled together some of the serious themes from the evening into a more analytical post for our Public Spend Matters Europe site. You can read that here if you want some more in depth analysis of what the evening tells us about the direction of public procurement in 2015.

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