Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What happens when you ask 1 Knight, 2 Professors, 1 Dr and 1 CEO a simple question on procurement?

Today brought, as I understand it, the final oral evidence session of the Public Administration Select Committee Inquiry into procurement. That's three sessions of oral evidence and heaven only knows how many words of written evidence. I have already discussed the Inquiry and the need for caution in taking opinions.

Now I am wondering what on earth the Select Committee are to make of the evidence taken.

Today's evidence was generally focussed on the complexities of Defence Procurement and the answers came from a Knight (KCB), two Professors, a PhD and a CEO. You would have expected differing views, but I would have expected them to have been able to answer simple questions, for example:
  1. Define Value for Money? and,
  2. Explain what reverse auctions are, how they work, and what are the benefits?
Alas that proved too difficult for the 'distinguished panel' and the Select Committee are left scratching their heads.

Some wonderfully digressing opinions into the world of 'SMEs don't get a bad deal in public procurement', defence contractors don't gain from the business of war, the UK strategy for supporting the over throw of Gadaffi, indecisiveness of whether UK Defence Procurement is/is not world class, 'we don't have a defence manufacturing strategy - oh yes we do', etc..  But a strange thing seemed to happen - some nonsense was being talked but the 'distinguished panel' appeared unable to pluck up the courage to challenge the nonsense.  Instead the 'distinguished panel' opted to exchange polite smiles - I suppose that's what happens when you've a Knight, two Profs, a Dr and a CEO behind one table!

Having said that, Professor Christopher Bovis of University of Hull absolutely shone and was able to succinctly articulate a 'can do' approach within the law, and there were other useful nuggets particularly around GOCO.  Other than that, opinions and a lack of critical evaluation.

Yes, what on earth will the PASC make of that evidence? Thankfully the PASC seemed to be well informed and knew their subject.

PS If you do choose to view the evidence watch out for some great examples of physical behaviour to avoid when a camera is on you which are too bad good to share!

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