Wales Procurement Week – Where Were the Big Buyers?

We’ve started featuring some of the highlight sessions for last week’s Wales Procurement Week over on our sister site, Public Spend Matters Europe. So you can read here about Abby Semple’s thoughts on why evidence-based procurement policy might be a very good idea for the public sector, and today we have the first of a two-parter on “innovation procurement” – well worth a read.

Looking back on the three days we were present at the event, one point struck me on reflection. Whilst the overall turnout was good, we did not get the impression that the big departments of the UK’s central government sector were well represented - certainly during the sessions we attended. Now maybe they just kept a low profile, but I did not meet anyone from MOD, DWP, HMRC et al. And whilst it was very good that Sally Collier made the effort to turn up, Crown Commercial Service did not seem to be more widely well represented either. Similarly, we did not meet many people from the giant local authorities (London, Birmingham, etc).

That is a real shame, as many of the sessions were genuinely insightful, and I can think of a lot of points, ideas and issues that would have real practical implications for procurement teams - in terms of good ideas, risks to avoid and so on. As we said previously, a strength of the event is that even the sessions led by lawyers and academics worked hard to be of practical value.

Given this, there really is little excuse for major contracting authorities not to spend a few hundred quid sending someone appropriate from the team for 2 or 3 days to attend. The event itself is free, and travel to Cardiff is not exactly like flying someone to Davos for a week. I know money and resource is tight, but you won’t improve public procurement if people aren’t outward-looking and proactively seeking to do things better.

Understanding what the new rules around frameworks mean; expanding your mind a little on “innovation procurement”; thinking about how to support the “cities of the future”; understanding the indicators for corruption in public procurement (and don’t try to pretend it doesn’t happen in the UK) -- just some of the many areas that the event covered and which would have benefited pretty much any public sector practitioner delegate.

So next year, I think we’re going to make a nuisance of ourselves in pushing major departments in this direction. We’ll be asking them if they’re sending anyone, and if not, why not. And even better, rather than just attending, they put forward their own best ideas to other delegates – let’s have more great examples of innovation, success and high performance in public procurement, to share with everyone.

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