What is happening to OGC?

It is now six weeks since the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) was moved from Treasury into the Cabinet Office's Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG), and there is still no clarity on its future.  I hear that in some areas, people are busy; obviously the collaborative procurement people are involved with the 'centralising procurement across central government' initiative for instance.  But in other areas, there is no certainty about future direction or strategy, so work has pretty much ground to a halt.  Their website seems to be in a state of suspended animation; yet they have no visibility on the Cabinet Office website.  Buying Solutions have delayed some contracting activities; and other areas are waiting for clear direction.   That's no criticism of the OGC staff, or of Nigel Smith, the CEO, who has announced his departure; this is over their heads.

At a time when excellent performance in public procurement is more important than ever, the sooner there is a clear lead from the top (and that probably means Ministerial level, particularly as Ian Watmore, who will lead ERG, does not take up his post till September), the better.  Clarity in terms of OGC's role (or lack of a role), and how public sector procurement is going to be led seems urgently needed.

In the meantime, more power is flooding into the ERG; I understand the move of DirectGov into ERG brings close to 200 more civil servants into this new centre of power.  Is Cabinet Office going to be to the Coalition what Brown's Treasury was to the Blair Government?  A real central power, perhaps a balance or a threat (depending whether we see this positively or not) to Departments' autonomy?  It's beginning to look that way.

I'm also  going to feature here over the next day or two what I've learnt about the two key central Government procurement initiatives that are underway at the moment.

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  1. Faceless Bureaucrat:

    ” But in other areas, there is no certainty about future direction or strategy, so work has pretty much ground to a halt.”

    No change there, then…

    The OGC died the day Sir Peter Gershon walked into the sunset and OGC Buying Solutions (or whatever they call themselves these days) was never more than an excuse to retain 250+ civil servants’ jobs in an employment blackspot.

    Let’s hope the lack of ‘noise’ from OGC means that the Cabinet Office is finally going to do what the Treasury should have done years ago – disband it and replace it with a ‘Government Spending Team’ of around 30 Procurement specialists headed by a Grade 5 supported by 2 or 3 Grade 7s.

    I suspect that the savings made through not having the cost of around 300 staff, including a full Chief Executive’s Private Office and a Press and Media Team that was even bigger than HM Treasury’s (despite not having a Ministerial support role) would be significant.


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