What do the Commonwealth Games tell us about corruption, public procurement and the Olympics?

Although things seem to have picked up over the last few days, it seems very sad that the Commonwealth Games in India has led to such a great country presenting a poor image to the outside world; and I speak as an Honorary Member of the Indian Institute of Materials Management.  (I would love to hear from someone in that organisation actually about the issues, so if anyone happens to read this, do get in touch).  And, without suggesting for a moment that the UK has all the answers, I wonder if CIPS or the UK Government could offer any assistance in improving public procurement governance in India?

Two UK points to draw from this. Firstly, although it has faded from memory, remember all the talk when the London Olympics were announced?  Fears that we wouldn't get construction finished on time, it would be "Wembley Stadium all over again" and so on.  Well, that hasn't happened, and although I've said this before, it again points to the considerable success of the construction programme and the route followed. The Olympic Deliver Authority's appointment of CLM to be the managers ('delivery partner') to oversee the whole construction programme was perceived as pretty risky, as well as costly, at the time.  But that decision has been totally vindicated in my view.  On time, to budget (once a proper budget was put in place), and with a very good safety record.  As I've said before, I'd love to see an organisation such as CLM given a juicy MOD project to see if they can achieve the same results there!

Secondly, we should be truly grateful that we don't in general have a problem with public sector corruption in the UK; a factor that certainly appears to have played a part in the Delhi problems.  Corruption (and this applies top private sector organisations as well) often starts from the top.  If the 'little people' see politicians and senior public servants acting improperly, that spreads quickly through society.  So we must retain vigilance, and remember that tedious processes (yes, I do mean the EU procurement regulations here) do help to make sure we don't sink into endemic corruption.

Even seemingly innocent 'single tenders' can be a slippery slope; so if you work in procurement, remember you are helping to maintain a relatively corruption free national environment when you explain to your budget holders that "yes, I'm afraid you do need to run a competition"!

Anyway, let's hope the games are a huge success from now on.

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