Tim Yeo – why do conflicts of interest matter more for procurement staff than for our leaders?

Here’s a letter we received recently from an irate reader.

 Dear Mr Smith

I wish to object to being featured on your scurrilous website, “Spending Matters”.  Your suggestion that I might have acted in breach of the CIPS ethical code is disgraceful.  As Chief Procurement  Officer  for  B***** Global Industries, I act in the best interest of my firm at all times.

Now, it is true that I have received consultancy fees of some £525,000 from current and potential suppliers to my firm over the last three years whilst I have worked in the CPO role.

It is also true that I have shares and options worth some £600,000 in a range of firms who similarly are current or potential suppliers to  B***** Global Industries.

It is also true that I offered to coach the CEO of one of those suppliers to assist him in making a tender presentation for a major new contract to our evaluation panel. However, I did excuse myself from the decision making section of that meeting given my role there.

My external earnings and shareholdings have never impacted on my ability to do an excellent job for my organisation, and to suggest anything else is false.  Indeed, the wealth I have accumulated allows me to act truly independently when I provide input to business decisions, And I assure you that my relationships with certain firms have never impacted on such decisions.

Please print this letter and a retraction of your accusation.

Yours faithfully

T****  R****  

 OK, I’m lying, We didn’t receive that letter, I wrote it. But if it were real, you would I suspect laugh at the effrontery of Mr R  and assume – like the vast majority of readers, I’m sure - that he should be drummed out of CIPS and probably fired on the spot.

Yet Tim Yeo, a UK Member of Parliament, and chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, thinks he has done nothing wrong in allegedly putting himself in a very similar position, and actually, he may not have broken the rules. MPs can earn consulting fees (in his case, £525,000 in the last three years), hold shares and so on even if they are in positions where they have influence on laws and regulations that have a direct impact on the business of the firms who are rewarding them. Yeo may have stepped over the line if the accusation that he coached a CEO who was going to appear before a parliamentary committee is proven, but even here there is some doubt about the rules.

It does seem incredible that we hold our elected law-makers to far less rigorous standards than we expect a junior procurement manager in a local council or small private firm to uphold.  It’s not that hard to define, identify and protect against conflicts of interest – it’s about time parliament got itself sorted out and did just that.

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Voices (6)

  1. Charles Eddolls:

    Peter when Tim Yeo was a Government Minister I had a meeting with him concerning my industries concerns re regulation.

    I found him to be sympathetic and of the highest integrity.

    I therefore suggest that you wait until the facts are clear before casting aspersions because I for one would be more than annoyed if facts concerning my dealings were distorted. If of course this the case..

    1. Peter Smith:


      I don’t think I was casting aspersions at all. the numbers about Yeo’s earnings from firms in the industry are public domain facts. My issue really is that our MPs are allowed under the rules governing their behavior to do things that we would not tolerate in a procurement executive in terms of potential conflicts of interest. I was going to write more here but actually I think this is another blog for next week! Thanks for the comment and provoking me to think further about this!

  2. Trevor Black:

    Brilliant Peter! As a Parish Councillor a colleague has to sign a declaration of interest in a book that he sits on the Village Hall Committee. We all understand the reasons for this but it appears to get a bit ‘fuzzy’ at the next level. No corruption in our Parish! Isn’t it strange that I think of Tim Yeo every time my colleague signs the book! It appears that our Government is using the Ernest Marples version of the Guidance to Conflicts of Interest.

  3. Dave Orr:

    Didn’t sleaze like this contribute to the downfall of a previous Government?

    I must now report myself to my own Ombudsman & colleagues. After a thorough investigation no breach of the rules will have occurred because we wrote the rules!

    Cannot wait for the MoD GoCo to get GoCoing as the Times reports that no other major economy has ever thought of outsourcing defence in this way.

    What does that tell you?

    1. bitter and twisted:

      Why Dave, it just shows how brilliantly advanced the idea is !

  4. life:

    Point very well made!

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