Thursday, 30 May 2013

Procurement for growth?

I've been struggling for a few days whether or not to comment on the Cabinet Office's note on Procurement for Growth but I felt I had, if only to acknowledge its publication.

Disappointingly, this a tactical document. Worse, it adds nothing to what has gone before, for example, you could scan any number of the former OGC's guidance (if you could find them) on working with SMEs, third sector organisations, minority businesses, addressing social issues, environmental purchasing, and find the same principles - minimise bureaucracy, talk to the market, and the biggest impact is made early in the procurement cycle.

It is a missed opportunity. What is needed is a strategy - a strategy harnessing the public purse effectively. Of course such a strategy is inconceivable given the narrow procurement objectives espoused by the Cabinet Office. But a meaningful strategy could be published by Business, Innovation and Skills which draws on Heseiltine's recommendations.

Why has such a strategy not been published? Well, my view is that we have seen a dumbing down of public procurement policy and a short-term focus on 'Costcutter' as opposed to 'Wise Buys'. Much of current strategy, in my view is working in opposition to growth - I have discussed this many times, not least in my 2009 Supply Chain Management article but also in many blog posts. I would be delighted to see some sort of published impact assessment of the current strategy which has now been pursued for some years.

Having said that, there is potential for the autonomy of area based commissioning strategies which could be aimed at Procuring for Growth. Perhaps the LGA could drive such an initiative, ideally through a range of varying comparative regional strategies, properly consulted upon with the business communities, baselined and measured for impact, and supported by a change management programme. There would then be meaningful evidence which could be drawn upon for a national strategy which provides an informed answer on how best to use procurement for growth.

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