Monday, 25 March 2013

"I'm not really enthused" said Bernard Jenkin (Public Administration Select Committee)

The opening of the latest session of evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee Inquiry on Public Procurement included the Chair, Bernard Jenkin saying "I'm not really enthused".  I think he also could have repeated that statement many times. He could just as easily have asked:
"So, what are you telling us that is so different from what we have heard for the last 20 odd years? 
"Do you think it would have been acceptable, with your private sector background, to answer every question by saying 'it is a work in progress'?" 
Personally I found the evidence given quite depressing and very unconvincing. Personal accountability?

Let's face it, by default, all those who have led central government procurement initiatives over the last 20 years were, by implication, at fault of not bringing about change. It was also implied CIPS have not been able to develop suitable qualifications. Then you have the staff, who the Committee were led to believe, just aren't up to the mark - I'm sure they'll be really motivated now!

But perhaps there is a need for a reality check:

  1. You don't need perfect information to introduce category management - a basic sort of creditors payments was sufficient for me, 30 years ago, to work out where to focus attention;
  2. Lean is not remotely new, the key text on Lean Supply was published in 1993, 20 years ago, and research on its application in the public sector published in 1990s (for example here);
  3. Gershon was able to identify key areas of cross public sector spend anomalies almost ten years ago which demonstrated different prices were paid for the same things;
  4. Following Gershon there was a pan public sector category management approach embarked upon for common commodities, goods and services;
  5. Procurement capability reviews appear to have been a good idea and needed - weren't they stopped as they were no longer required?
  6. There's not much similarity between retail buying and public procurement - why on earth cite retail buying as an exemplar?
  7. All those who have gained Registered Practitioner status in MSP and PRINCE2 are actually included on a register, as I am sure are those who have completed CIPS. Regardless of that, is it too difficult to get staff to provide details of their qualifications? Has there been no Training Needs Analyses completed of staff over the last ten years?
If we can't find out what happened after Gershon, then what happened after Green?

Then there's the paradox of the Procurement Investment fund - £7m or so set aside to develop capability. That's been clawed back or perhaps handed back to the Cabinet Office, yet it's capability which is missing?

I'm reminded of Ponticus Pilate and hand washing.

1 comment:

  1. Also the ELGPA - Evaluation of the Local Government Procurement Agenda 2005-2009 which clearly identified capabilities as a problem area. We keep on saying this, and I believe it is 'partially' true - the problems though are different and bigger than they were in the 90's and through the 00's. So, where do we go from here. Discuss.