Monday, 29 July 2013

Dispatches reaches the parts contract management can't reach

Yet again Channel 4's Dispatches reaches the parts contract management just doesn't seem to reach - this time the NHS 111 service. I don't think anyone should be surprised by poor implementation of the 111 service which has been commented on elsewhere - 111 is just the latest of a litany.

The service portrayed in the programme was truly disgraceful. But what we appear to be witnessing recently is a culture of apathy and acceptance of that's the way it is in the NHS. We see representatives from the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing who appear genuinely surprised that the service is so bad, yet clinicians (their members) are supposed to be a key part of the 111 service delivery - how come their own members didn't make them aware of the lack of clinicians?

While it may be consoling to point the finger at other professions, one of the biggest indictments appears to be the complete absence of any meaningful contract management system. I recently posted a guest blog on Spendmatters which suggested we need undercover supply manager. Despatches' investigative reporters seem to have a better understanding of where to look for contract failures than those responsible for contract management - why couldn't those responsible for the service have uncovered the poor quality of service delivery? Why didn't the contract management system work?

While I am sceptical about the new Commercial Commercial Service, here's a suggestion for their leadership: get a high-powered team undercover supply managers trained by investigative journalists, such as those with Dispatches or the Sunday Tines, and use as part of strategic public procurement contract management.

Should labour adopt a policy of the living wage for public sector contracts?

Ed Miliband is proposing the adoption of the Living Wage in all public procurement contracts, while the CBI’s Director General, John Cridland, views the mandating of the living wage as a threat to small businesses. In the UK we already have the minimum wage of £6.19 (for London) but if the Living Wage were used instead that would mean all employees in London would receive a minimum of £8.55 per hour.

Would the adoption of the Living Wage be a threat to small businesses? Is it even right to use public procurement as a policy tool in this way? It’s for politicians to decide but we need to be reassured they have thought it through.

Could such a condition in public sector contracts lead to a two-tier workforce with those working on public sector contracts within the same firm, paid a different rate than those working on private or third sector contracts? How easy would it be to cope with those who work on more than more than one sector’s contracts?

Given that the additional cost of the living wage will have to be passed through the contract price to the public sector, will the additional costs not merely be transferred to the public purse? Will the Treasury accept such an additional cost? What will be the implications to wider budgets and will some public services be cut to balance the books?

Then we have to ask will this mean different pricing strategies are required for public and non-public sector contracts?  Surely it would be counter-productive to have non-public sector contracts priced on a minimum wage while public sector contracts are bid on the higher living wage?  If such an approach were adopted it would make a mockery of any comparative benchmarking between private sector prices and those of the public sector.

Where do you draw the line on a public sector contract? For example, what about the supplier who has a low value order for say, Lego blocks, how far down the supply chain would the impact of the living wage be passed? Would a threshold have to be adopted for the application of the living wage in contracts? If that were the case would we see disaggregation of contracts to avoid the higher costs?

But would the wider public sector be ready to pay the additional costs? When you think of it, this would really be a public sector purchase tax borne by the buying organisation. How would it be viewed by local government who have already wrestled to make significant cuts?

If the policy were introduced how much would it cost to handle the administration and even the policing of its application? Just as interesting would be to understand how the policy could be exited?

Then we have to ask the more fundamental questions: are there more effective ways of achieving the same outcome, and should public procurement be used as an alternative to low pay benefits?
I can’t see this idea as a risk to small businesses but I do think there’s a need for a more thorough analysis of the risks and alternatives

NB First published as a guest post on Procurement Insights and  Procurement Insights EU edition

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The greener grass of the Crown Commercial Service

We know two things: firstly, that the grass is always greener on the other side, and secondly, a bad workman always blames his tools. That's how I see the announcement of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) - it is not the panacea to public procurement problems in the UK but a convenient placebo to buy time. It looks like a good idea but when we eventually get there, where we came from can be expected to look greener than where we have arrived.

There is no perfect organisational structure for procurement, just the most appropriate set of trade-offs for a given time. I have absolutely no doubt that if we had a centralised procurement structure at the present time, we would have just heard an announcement that decentralisation was the answer. Quite simply the grass will always be greener on the other side and the tools of the 'existing structure' are easy to blame for current failures (in this case the structure).

But more fundamentally, what is the problem we are trying to solve at the present time?

Are we seeing the green shoots of a recovery or looking at a deteriorating economy? Let's give the economy the benefit of the doubt and say we're looking at recovery - I don't think centralising will accelerate the recovery and remotely help small businesses or investment. We don't have enough organisations who are likely, at the present time, to satisfy the qualifying criteria for the 'bigger is better' contracts we can expect from the CCS.

But then think of the policy objectives the CCS will be asked to deliver - it does not strike me we have  a consensus view of of what procurement aims to achieve at the present time. For example, is it cost reduction or wider social objectives? Without that clarity what are the outcomes CCS should be measured against? Even if there were that clarity at the present time, by the time CCS hits the road we will be starting to see the warm-up routines for the next election - should the objectives be set for the recovery and can they be flexible enough to reflect a new government's manifesto?

Is there a readiness to change? How on earth could any causal observer of public procurement believe there is a readiness to change to the CCS at the minute. We continue on the hamster's wheel of making little progress on winning hearts and minds towards more collaborative procurement. Until the stakeholders hearts and minds are won, all we can expect are 'work arounds'.

Have we the skills? Well we know there are issues with contract management, but that could be solved without CCS. Would it not be better to get on top of contract management before you make the contracts bugger? Even if we got on top of contract management, we have almost no evidence of effective risk management and performance management - getting bigger is unlikely to cure that, on the contrary just magnify the detrimental impact.

I could go on but that doesn't strike me as useful, really what I'm trying to say is that we can make any structure work but we need to recognise there is no perfect structure. We can make any structure work but to do that we need a clear vision and leadership, and clarity of the outcomes to be achieved. We can make any structure work but to do that we need the right culture and skills. We can make any structure work but we need a readiness to change, excellent stakeholder engagement, change management, risk and performance management. Yes, we could make CCS work but at the present time the key ingredients just aren't in place nor are they likely to be within the envisioned timescale. We could make CCS work but history suggests it won't unless we get the foundations in place - but then if we got the foundations in place would we even need the cost of changing to CCS?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Is there an environment in which procurement fraud is more likely to develop?

If there are reductions in the frequency of exposing purchases to competition through longer-term arrangements, then it is more difficult to demonstrate ‘the price is right’ and suppliers also risk having more at stake from losing business.

If specific individuals have discrete longer-term responsibility for specific purchases in and are perceived to have unique know-how, then visibility of behaviour and critique of strategy is reduced.

If there is a streamlining of processes, which removes what were considered to be ‘non-value added’ checks and balances, then the likelihood of detection is reduced.

If there has been a switch to high-level strategic audit as opposed to random in-depth end-to-end process auditing then the likelihood of fraud being uncovered is reduced.

If there is a feeling of loyalty to the organisation not being reciprocated with loyalty to the individual, then it is more likely that employees will feel a sense of betrayal and anger. 

If there is job uncertainty, doubts about long-term security, a high probability of redundancy, worries about being able to get future employment, pay mortgages and family bills, it is likely that the temptation to engage in procurement fraud will increase.

If there is organisational complacency the procurement fraud only happens in other organisations, then there is a denial of reality.

Is there an environment in which procurement fraud is more likely to develop? Yes, right now.

First published as a guest blog on Procurement Insights, 10 July, 2013

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Protecting against when the gamekeeper turns poacher

Oxfam and Lloyds Banks don't immediately register as having much in common, particularly for those of us who have an interest in procurement. The link is fraud, or, more specifically, when the gamekeeper turns poacher.

Last September, Lloyds former head of fraud and security pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison for theft  of £2.4m. She had submitted 93 false invoices between 2007 and 2011. Yes, this was the person the bank had charged with protecting them from fraud.

In an echo of Lloyd's, on 18th June, Oxfam's former chief of counter fraud was accused of stealing £62k and a laptop. Let's be clear though, he is accused but the court have yet to make a judgement.

It would have been expected both the anti-fraud gurus would have been carefully vetted and 'above suspicion'. They would also, however, have been in the ideal position to identify the weaknesses in the system and the scope for avoiding detection. Yet, in both cases, it is alleged, they 'broke the system' and no doubt there are plenty of examples of more successful adept anti-fraud gurus who have so far escaped detection. The lesson must therefore be that there is a need for some form of independent testing of the anti-fraud system, but that seems rarely evident. Another lesson must be to put in place the system which also 'polices the police'.

I have long lost count of the number of risk managers, who, when I interviewed them about procurement risk, had not given any meaningful consideration to procurement fraud, therefore they lacked appropriate protections. Yet it has been estimated that procurement fraud cost the UK public sector alone somewhere in the region of £2.3bn – closing that down would make a painless but worthwhile contribution to the UK economic recovery.

In the procurement world, who better to know how to break the system, with minimal chance of detection, than those who understand procurement - systems are required to reduce that risk. But just as important a question is, 'are the processes in place to protect the CPO against mischievous allegations of procurement fraud?'

Sadly, I see a lack of robust anti-procurement fraud systems - have you got one in place? Such a system  needs to be proportionate, pragmatic, risk based, comprehensive, tested and regularly reviewed. Without such a system how will you be able to prove 'not guilty'?

First published as a guest blog on Spendmatters, 26 June 2013

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The unfortunate case of sponsorship procurement: A case study

I recently discussed the procurement of sponsorship - little did I realise that procurement of sponsorship would become quite a big political issue for London so quickly. Now we learn that Boris has found terms written into the sponsorship agreement of the Emirates Air Line (Cable Car) so unpalatable that a re-write of the 10 year sponsorship deal is required.

The are at least five issues;

  1. The average man in the street knows Boris Johnston is quite outspoken - how was he unaware of a constraint in the sponsorship deal which prohibits any criticism of the deal, the UAE royal family and government? That was a big constraint but also the associate risk required careful management and a high-level of awareness;
  2. The contract would be in breach if the cable service is sold off or assigned as security to a 'conflicting person' or business from a country with which the UAE has no diplomatic relations - which effectively includes any Israeli linked business - how was that constraint signed;
  3. Given the alleged "anti-Israeli" clause, was the contract subjected to any equalities impact assessment?
  4. Were procurement even involved in this deal?
  5. How many other sponsorship contracts exist within TfL which have not been risk assessed?
We are told the contract will now be rewritten - the need for a rewrite is not only an embarrassment but also recognition of a failure to get it right in the first place. This is a lesson for all - get on top of procuring sponsorship before it get's on top of you. The acceptance of the need for contract re-negotitions in the public sector is becoming all to frequent an occurrence - just how long will this be considered reasonable?

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Justice of paying tag in procurement

If yesterday’s Sunday Times is correct it appears G4S will have an up hill struggle in gaining future public sector business -  is that justice and would it stand up under public procurement regulations?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have not been afraid to cast stones at G4S and some aspects of their performance, but is this latest concern about tagging the right one to pick a fight about and would justice be seen to be done? Would the demise of G4S be something any government would want to celebrate?

While it may be fashionable to rake up the past of G4S’ Olympics security debacle, who was actually the client for that contract? I can’t see any connection with the MoJ, nor can I believe that MoJ have had full view of all the relevant facts and agreements. That being the case, is it justice to use that as a basis for withholding other contracts? Equally, why act now, given that there were calls for G4S to be blacklisted at the time?

But let’s consider the specifics of the tagging contract. G4S claim they had previously provided information to MoJ auditors for scrutiny, yet have not received any feedback. Given that there’s always a cost in providing information and no feedback has been received which could have helped G4S address issues - is it fair and reasonable to treat a refusal of G4S to volunteer to submit to a forensic audit? Should the evidence of abuse not be presented by the MoJ?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Procurement of special advisor to ensure electoral success

You are asked to hire someone who can help your sponsor win an election.

Your sponsor has expressed a concern that "political lobbying is the next big scandal waiting to happen" - you may want to include that in your risk assessment.

Your sponsors policies are also linked with reducing long term health costs. They recognise obesity, too much alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking have a detrimental impact on the electorates' health and also on the (excuse the unfortunate choice of words here) the whole life costs of running the health service. Future health costs are one of the dominant causes of politicians insomnia.

The preferred provider has a proven pedigree of being associated with electoral victories, of course that is no indication of 'cause and and effect', nevertheless it is better than always being associated with losers. The provider also has a risk if your sponsor turns out to lose.

Your preferred provider naturally enough is in the business of influencing - the trinity of steering the electorate, steering policy, and in steering big business. That unholy alliance may just have some ever so slight link with lobbying.

Given the health policy and risk of perceived lobbying, it may be clever to ask the potential provider if they have any perceived conflicts of interest. Of course you need to be very sceptical about any answers, after all, the provider's core business is getting people to make the decisions the provider wants them to make and be distracted from any thing which may have not get them to 'yes'.

Given all that due diligence, you appoint the preferred provider (did you really have a choice or was it a forgone conclusion).

This morning you were relaxing over breakfast, watching yet more depressing news coverage of sectarian violence in Belfast (wasn't that all supposed to be sorted by Blair) - having said that, thankfully there's nothing today about public procurement. You glance at The Times: "Heavens to Murgatroyd" your procurement recommendation is all over the front page, the second page, and even the Leading Articles (bizarrely but thnakfully now tucked away on page 24). Turns out there was a perceived conflict of interest - others think there's a connection between your provider, who happens to also be a consultant to the tobacco industry and a U-turn on an initiative to reduce smoking - are they mad, how on earth could anyone draw that conclusion.

Forget cutting the grass, you need to cut the LinkedIn profile and the section which said 'procured special electoral adviser'. You've just fired up your Mac to make that minor deletion, when your landline and mobile phone go simultaneously, one caller is FM and the other GO, as if twins on Big Brother, both say "Wasn't it your job to minimise exposure to risk? Is the provider paid by outcomes? Were you lobbied into making that recommendation?"

After the brief calls, you start to consider this week's shopping and the visit to the local food bank - a Marloboro weekend?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

"Generally the MoJ is seen as doing good work in the procurement area"?

I'm going to leave it to others to dissect the G4S and Serco overcharging for tagging the Ministry of Justice. I fully expect a deluge of blogs. Nor do I intend to catalogue the long list of MoJ procurement issues which I have discussed previously.

But I will remind you that last September I highlighted the need to question the value for money of tagging and indeed the need to question the procurement approach including the failure to focus on outcomes.

I also want to remind you that I questioned the value of evidence given to the PASC Procurement Inquiry when one of the 'experts'' stated "Generally the MoJ in seen as doing good work in the procurement area".

The big issue to me is the decision of the Lord Chancellor to launch and internal investigation into contract management based on evidence that MoJ officials knew as far back as 2008 that there were issues with billing. If that proves to be true our profession has been discredited.

I want to learn of the evidence that was uncovered and why that wasn't reported? I want to know how broad, deep and high the awareness went? I want to know whether fraud was involved or corruption? I want to know how much money this has cost the tax payer? I want to know what will happen to tagging if there are only two providers and both are found at fault? I want to understand how these organisations have become so powerful suppliers to the public sector that it appears a blind eye is turned to past misdemeanours? I have long called for personal accountability, will we see that?

Prior to the separation of the MoJ from the Home Office, the then Home Secretary claimed the Home Office "wasn't fit for purpose" - I think we now need to understand what the MoJ Procurement Capability Reviews revealed (written and unwritten - think CQC) and how much of public procurement just isn't fit for purpose?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Corruption is a UK problem too

Transparency International has just published its Global Corruption Barometer, sadly it is not good news for the UK . There is now a perception that the UK political system appears to have lost its puritanical past. That's hardly surprising when you think of the recent boasts of some parliamentarians that they can 'make things happen'.

We may like to believe that the Bribery Act will stop all that nastiness but if we do we fail to recognise basic human nature, temptation, and opportunistic behaviour. We also fail to recognise that those who were subjects of the recent parliamentary 'stings' would also been involved in bringing the Bribery Act into law.

To make matters worse there is a political storm in Northern Ireland, where the traditionalist and protestant fundamentalist Democratic Unionist Party have become embroiled in internal allegations of using party influence to skew public procurement decisions. Even the First Minister, doesn't know who to believe. The claims were made as part of a BBC Spotlight programme and of course the DUP are naturally calling into question the reporting (as an aside you may recall that it was a BBC Spotlight programme which had previously raised public procurement questions regarding Peter Robinson's wife and the awarding of a catering franchise a few years ago). While perverting procurement decisions is bad, the DUP now appear to want to obstruct a fuller debate on the issue. The saga of the actual contracts in question is just so bizarre that a weeks blog posts couldn't bring you up to speed but by way of example it involves a firm who admitted charging for maintenance work on blocks of flats which no longer existed!

My advice to the DUP would be to open this whole saga up to as much scrutiny as possible otherwise it will become a running sore.

But we also need to look wider than the UK for frustration with corruption in public procurement - let's not forget that one of the reasons for the recent protests in Brazil was frustration with corruption.

Those involved in public sector procurement, regardless of whether they are politicians or practitioners need to be perceived to be 'whiter than white', particularly when there are spending cuts and the population are on the receiving end. Yet, in how many public sector organisations do we now see evidence of a robust approach to 'owning' and combating the corruption problem or even personal accountability? I don't view this as something which will just 'go away' unfortunately, given the right conditions, which I think we have, I think it can only get worse.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Procuring Sponsorship

One of the traditional 'no go' areas for procurement is buying events and venue sponsorship - it ranges from a firm paying your organisation money to have their name associated with you or even provide something you may otherwise have had to pay for, for example, delegate bags for a conference. My experience suggests you only get access to this area of procurement after you've proved you can add value and be trusted with other areas of marketing spend. Procurement's role is to get the investment mix and formalise the terms and conditions. The journey to procuring sponsorship seems to be a progression from buying the 'feedbies' and 'give-aways', then the marketing and promotional literature and resources, then 'above the line' advertising', then the events, and then the holy grail of sponsorship procurement.

Sponsorship procurement is high-risk so you really must get the 'budget holder' on board, that can take some time. You need clarity of what's important strategically and also what is deemed strategically inappropriate - sign a sponsorship deal with the right partner and there's the benefit of the halo effect, conversely, the consequences of one of the partners falling from grace are high too. Just as precarious is trying to predict social trends and social disapprobation, for example a sponsor who is associated with tax avoidance may not be that helpful at the moment. So you really need to think very carefully about risks and exit strategies - the time to do that is before you enter the sponsorship.

You then need to think about scope and bundling. There are trade-offs between single and multiple sponsorship both for the buyer and the sponsors - plenty of small sponsors may bring in the money and be easier to get but compromise the big joint branding deals. Taking sponsorship from a group of sponsors and then discovering that the mix is incompatible and unacceptable to some of the sponsors will cause short and long term problems for all concerned. Think about that risk early and protect against it.

As opposed to assuming you will have a keen band of sponsors beating a path to your door, expect to have to market your organisation.

Of course some of your traditional evaluation techniques can be used so think ahead about evaluation criteria and weighting.

One final word of caution from expereince. At one time I wanted to go to the market for something that a strategic sponsor provided. The strategic sponsor contacted the CEO claiming that I was wasting money in not re-awarding the contract to them as the incumbent, claimed that their bid would prove to be the best deal, and that they would withdraw sponsorship if I went ahead with the procurement. My answer was comparatively simple, we shouldn't be held hostage to the sponsor, we should take a strategic view to the market and extend the contract scope to more sites, if the sponsor was so confident they would deliver the better deal that would be proved in the market, and regardless we had a contract for the existing sponsorship deal with no guarantee it would be extended anyway. Thankfully the CEO placed his trust in me, I delivered a 50% saving on the contract through an alternative provider and the sponsor did not withdraw their sponsorship! So be conscious that big sponsorship deals also open the door to the strategic leadership of your organisation, and the sponsor can be expected to use that access when they think your procurement strategy could be disadvantageous to them.

This was first published as a guest post on Procurement Insights EU Edition. 24 June 2013

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Should we cheer or castigate the BBC's dreaming

Just over a month ago the BBC was heavily criticised over its failed Digital Media Initiative. Today 'auntie' is in the firing line over abandoning 3-DTV "as another costly failure". Do you think the criticism is right?

£100m was spent on the digital media initiative before failure was admitted, we don't know how much the 3-D dream has cost. I don't really think you can blame the BBC for the reality that so few of us have bought 3-D televisions - the analogue switch-off forced many to replace TVs which really had nothing wrong with them and the economy meant that replacement of TVs was not something necessarily welcomed - why would anyone upgrade again to 3-D so soon?

But if the UK really wants to feature in the new digital age, is it not appropriate that state funded organisations, such as the BBC, should be encouraged to innovate and lead the way in thinking and experimentation. If the Digital Library and 3-D had turned out to be massive successes would the government not have wanted to use those as exemplars?

I think we should cheer the BBC for its dreaming and trying, and I sincerely hope these recent failures will not stop the dreaming and trying. However, we need to learn the lessons of failure. We need to learn how to be faster at spotting the failures and put in the checks and balances to protect the innovators from themselves without stymying their vision. Our industrial strategy needs to reflect this too.  The UK lacks dreamers and visionaries but we also tend to deify them and reward with a seat in 'the Lords'.

Procurement needs to work out ways which can help costly innovation mistakes going too far. Gateway reviews should help but clearly haven't. We need more prototyping. We need to also be part of the innovation team.

Procurement has another role, not just in stimulating the market to innovate but also being more innovative in procurement practice. Do you not find it strange that the global financial crisis has not led to any paradigm shift in procurement thinking? Where is the zeitgeist? Have we not just dis-proved, that in procurement terms, 'necessity is the mother of invention'?

If we want to move forward we have to accept sometimes the stat-nav just doesn't work and we have to go back to the drawing board. Sadly, the BBC appear to have let two projects go too far, but that doesn't mean we can't learn constructively and help successfully turn more dreams into reality.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

MoJ Legal Aid Procurement Strategy needs an advocate

The Ministry of Justice's procurement has an uncanny knack of providing something worth discussing.The latest being a decision to put its proposed legal aid reform on hold.

Like all good procurement practice MoJ engaged in consultation with the market but there were fundamental doubts as to whether or not the Lord Chancellor has been serious about consultationJoshua Rozenberg provided a really good review of how that discussion went - suffice to say it did not go well and the key stakeholders, lawyers, put forward a purely selfless argument, that a tendering exercise with lowest price being the main criteria would not be good for justice.

The MoJ appeared to have had one central objective in the exercise, namely, to save £220m a year out of the annual spend of £2bn. Perhaps the outcome of the consultation may have been more productive if they had asked their learned friends for solutions on how to take cost out of the system.

However, whether or not the Lord Chancellor was serious about the consultation, he does appear to have heard something; I suspect what he heard was not the criticisms of the approach but the threat that few, if any, of the lawyers would compete for the business. Now all good procurement people know one key fact, a competitive tendering exercise only works if sellers chose to bid - the legal profession appear to have used their powers of persuasion to suggest that they wouldn't take part in a bidding process. The outcome is a return to the drawing board for the MoJ and I suspect a discussion on how on earth these ket stakeholders can reach a readiness to change

I have no idea how the MoJ propose to move forward on this but it will pose major problems:

  1. The lawyers appear to have won through harnessing their collective power to opt out of tendering;
  2. The notion that lowest price wins is rarely right but how will the MoJ repackage the procurement strategy or will they just give up?
  3. If you chose to take on lawyers are the odds stacked against you winning in a regulated procurement environment? 
  4. The government now appear to have met their 'trade union' nemesis in trying to bring about change with the 'professions' of the medical world and the legal world  - how will they change their future negotiating strategy?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Category management flushed out

They've delivered public service since 1852, yet Sunday, Monday, and now Tuesday publicly owned toilets have managed to feature in national newspapers - yes, I have blogged the toliets. Today it was the turn of Billericay Town Council (covered in The Times hard copy) which it has been claimed at £20k a year, is "the most expensive toilet in the country". Other Billericay numbers are 20p charge for users for a visit, a 15 year lease and a £125k contract break charge. 

Now the claim of being "the most expensive toilet in the country" would surely be very easy to verify and in the process could potentially demonstrate vfm and a collaborative approach by councils to benchmarking, collaborative negotiating, and collaborative buying.

So what I suggest is something very simple, a national audit of the nations contracts for 'superloos'. Include: the core details of the service provided, date started, length of contract, options for renewal, expiry date, break clauses and penalties for early termination, cost of consumables and charge to users. Such a simple audit would provide a really simple tool for introducing a category management approach to 'superloos'. Let some CX make a name for themselves as 'superloo procurement lead'. Let them baseline the costs and introduce a category management approach. Leading negotiations with the comparatively small number of providers shouldn't bring a flush.

Let's face it, if the LGA can't get a handle on this, are their aspirations for a new national procurement strategy with category leads really achievable?  Roll up, roll up, the cost of spending a penny could drop!