Thursday, 17 January 2013

The 'value' of food specifications and contract management

Newsnight, The 'I', The Daily Telegraph, The TImes, and BBC all thought the discovery of 29% horse meat in 'value' burgers was worth covering. As they haven't addressed some of the questions I would like answers to, I'll join the cacophony too. My second justification is that this is another example of procurement now becoming a board room agenda item; unfortunately because it is yet another example of procurement risk management going slightly awry.

  1. If the presence of horse meat was discovered two months ago, why have we just heard about it?
  2. Is it coincidental that since the discovery two months ago, we just happened to have had Christmas - was there any sort of cover-up to protect Christmas food sales of 'value' products'?
  3. While it doesn't appear there is any risk to health as a result of eating horse meat, we must all be familiar with the devastation caused by CJD (the picture with the blog is the infamous one of the then Environment Minister and his daughter demonstrating his confidence in British beef) - what lessons were learnt and preventative measures put in place? Why did  those corrective measures not work?
  4. If there cannot be confidence in the contract management measures which ensured horse meat was not present in burgers, how can we be sure we have not been eating something which was dangerous but has not yet been identified? The call for DNA testing will not solve this problem in the future as it will only confirm the absence of the tested DNA not what isn't being tested for its presence.
  5. What was the last date that the buying supermarkets can give a cast iron assurance that they have confidence they were receiving 'to specification'?
  6. The horse meat burgers were not just found in one supermarket's stock - what on earth is taking place in food supply chain contract management and risk management?
  7. The suggestion seems to be that the burgers in question were from the 'value' range - what are the   quality assurance measures in place for those ranges?
  8. I have recently discussed personal accountability - there are many who appear to have failed in their responsibilities in this food supply chain fiasco, will anyone be accountable?
While it may be easy to disconnect from this discussion, there are lessons for procurement practice in general.

However, am I alone in thinking the spate of high profile procurement shortfalls is having a detrimental affect on the profession just when it should be making its biggest contribution? Should CIPS, who appear to be aiming for world domination in 'all things procurement', steal the initiative and have any enquiry on procurement's profile before questions are asked regarding the 'quality assurance' which come with the Royal Charter? Do CIPS have their own PR machine lined up to respond to the next failure - they appear to have remained silent up until now?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gordon,

    Your points and questions are well made.

    When I reflect back (my) efforts supporting the training for Defra on the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI - sorry it still doesn't roll off the tongue!) prior to emergence of the Jamie Oliver awareness campaigns, it comes back to sound supply chain management.

    And, dare I say it, integrity in the relationships along the chain that safeguards the public interest.

    And, absolutely having the appropriate 'bells and whistles in place' to quality assure.