The Twelve Procurement Days of Christmas – Risk, Swans and Ladies Dancing

Our latest Paper, the Twelve Procurement Days of Christmas is available for download now. Sponsored by BravoSolution, it explains how that ancient song is actually a very sophisticated procurement training course...

Today, we will feature an extract where we look at some of the more sensitive aspects of procurement's work, with risk management as a theme. And you can download the whole paper free on registration here - and we hope it is both entertaining and a little thought provoking.


On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven Swans-a-Swimming

Here we come up against our first taste of risk management issues in the procurement training session, introduced quite sensibly now many of the basics have been covered. Day two of the training course, we might imagine.

What is the risk here? Well, swans are a sensitive subject. Their meat was once considered a delicacy, but “Her Majesty the Queen retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century”.

Think how easy it would be to accept an offer of swan supply from Trotter Avian Enterprises (White Birds Our Speciality), only to find out that the supplier had in effect stolen the swans from Her Majesty’s ownership. (Or perhaps find they were really large ducks, painted with Tip-Ex). Picture your Chief Executive chained up in the Tower of London (OK, don’t look so happy).

As well as checking out the items we are buying, we need to check our suppliers to make sure they are genuine and the sort of firms we want to do business with. That is vital for procurement, and means robust on-boarding processes for new suppliers, using Dun & Bradstreet or similar services, doing market and supplier research, and taking up references. And of course, maintaining that risk focus throughout the whole period of the contract.


On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine Ladies Dancing ...

But now we’re moving into very sensitive areas. The Bribery Act of 2010 has made it very clear that organisations must not try and influence others. We must not give a financial or other advantage to another individual in exchange for "improperly" performing a relevant function or activity. (Our highlighting there of “other advantage”). Procurement, as one of the most outward facing of business functions, has a key responsibility here.

So why, you might ask your sales director, do you want us to “procure” these dancing ladies? Are you sure “dancing” is all you want them to do? Do you need any (censored – download the paper for the uncut version!)

As well as the Bribery Act issue, there are also questions of reputational risk. Do you want to see your company’s name all over the Daily Mail website (along with the 23 photographs of your dancers, of course, just to make sure the readers are “shocked”...)

It’s no good procurement saying “it’s nothing to do with us”. We have a responsibility here, which clearly the writers of the song wanted us to appreciate.

Read more here!

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