Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Christmas spin: Investing, giving, shopping

I was always very impressed by Julia Unwin’s ‘The Grant Making Tango’. To me it is a must read for any procurement professional (perhaps a last minute Christmas present) in setting out the options appraisal for the procurement decision of Grant V Contract

The guide basically refers to purchasing as ‘Shopping’ and then differentiates grants as being either ‘investing’ or ‘giving’.

You ‘give’ when
you want to be associated with a good cause and don’t expect anything in return; a bit like the Christmas ideal.  It may be that the ‘giving’ organisation will be more than satisfied if it is given credit in say the local theatre’s advertising as a sponsor.

‘Investing’ is different.  You invest when you want something to take place which wouldn’t otherwise take place.  For example, there are no providers in the market and you want to ensure some service provision takes place or alternatively you want to ‘market make’.   In such a situation you would expect there to be performance management in place to ensure the funder obtains the intended outcomes for the funder's investment - a form of contract management.

Recently I wrote about the NHS Vaccine Purchasing Strategy.   I have now learnt that one of those ‘protected suppliers’ has been awarded a grant by the Scottish Parliament. £1.4m for the creation of 24 jobs which will ensure a pharmaceutical organisation maintains R&D - no it is not a Christmas Cracker joke, the assumption seems to have been the pharmaceutical company would not otherwise have invested in R&D!

Given the firm in question have received lucrative protectionist benefits which ensure access to NHS contracts, could a social clause not have been negotiated in the vaccine agreements which would have achieved the same employment benefits which the grant now appears be celebrating?  Is the grant an investment or just a welcome Christmas present with no strings attached?  If it is an investment what performance management system has been put in place to ensure the outcomes are achieved?  Does the agreement have any commitment on sustainability of the 25 new jobs or that they will be for those most in need of the work?  If it's 'giving', how does this fit with austerity and what options appraisal took place.

While the government are having meetings with its major suppliers do any of these trade-offs feature in the negotiations? Maybe it's just the season for giving.

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