Yes Minister – Sir Humphrey raises his glass to centralised government Procurement

Over the next week or so, we’re featuring some of our attempts at humour from 2013.  We’ll start today with our homage to the brilliant Yes Minster and Yes Prime Minister series, written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.

- Humphrey, do come in.

Thank you Minister.  I’ve brought Colin with me. Colin is our Commercial Director.

- Really? I have a Commercial Director?

Yes, we used to call him Head of Purchasing but we thought Commercial sounded more… dynamic and twenty-first century somehow.

- Well it’s nice to meet you Colin. Now, this is all about the new Cabinet Office plans for greater centralisation of procurement isn’t it? Francis Maude, master of the universe. Never liked him, you know. We fell out during the leadership election of ..

Yes Minister, we’re well aware of that, you have pointed that out a number of times to me over the past three years and indeed to many of your senior civil servants. But putting personal feelings aside, we do need to show some cognisance of his recommendations, I feel, in the spirit of good governance and indeed government.

- Thank you Humphrey. I’m sure you’re right. So what does he want this time? Colin, this is your area?

Minister, yes it is. Basically, we already use a number of the Government Procurement Service central contracts, but now we are being required to use them. And Cabinet Office expect us to actually lose the staff we have internally who currently buy those items – that ranges from IT equipment to marketing, training services to print.

- But that means my budget will be reduced too, doesn’t it? Fewer staff, less money. That’s not good.

No Minister. But Colin does have a rather clever idea.

Well, whilst we won’t need people doing the actual buying, we will of course need people here to make sure our needs and requirements are collected and communicated to GPS in order to allow them to buy what we actually want. We’ll then have to manage the service we receive from GPS – they will become in effect an important supplier to us themselves. An outsourced service provider, if you will.

So Minister, what this means is that Colin believes he will need to lose 10 roles from his team as that work is transferred to GPS. However, he calculates that, in order to preserve your ultimate financial and indeed statutory responsibilities as accounting officer, then he will need approximately 9 staff to handle requirements management and contract delivery performance from GPS.

- A net loss  of 1 then?

Yes Minster. I think we can cope with that.

- But aren’t we worried about losing our freedom to choose our own suppliers?

Minister, Colin tells me that these are not our most important spend areas anyway. And of course, it does give us an excuse if anything goes wrong  - let’s say our customer service levels drop, we can blame Cabinet Office and GPS for choosing such a terribly ineffective print supplier, or the wrong sort of call centre contract, or the wrong IT that they forced us to buy!

And then we have the new Crown Commercial Representatives – I don’t think our major suppliers will be offering them too much in the way of additional savings. We have had a quiet word about that already with their account directors. But it is another opportunity for us to deflect any criticisms – if a supplier lets us down, we can say that the Crown Representative caused it by pushing the supplier into inappropriate cost reductions.

- Very good Humphrey, I hadn’t thought of that.  So we lose a little bit of autonomy, but gain a whole new set of excuses.

Yes Minster, indeed.

- But what about this Complex Transactions Group that is going to help us with our large IT programmes?

That is perhaps even more interesting, Minister. Can I pour you another coffee before we start on that? (to be continued…)

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