Saturday, 5 October 2013

Not taking note-taking seriously in procurement

I find the John McCririck case most bizarre - a man who appeared to take great satisfaction at being offensive, wondering why he may no longer be an acceptable payroll cost for Channel 4. Anyway that's not the point and has only marginal relevance to procurement. No, the interesting lesson is how Ms Jay Hunt, who was seeking to defend McCririck's sacking, has found herself criticised for note-taking, or should I say, not taking note-taking seriously.

Here's what the QC said to Hunt:
There are two possibilities. Either you are displaying breathtaking arrogance by thinking that you didn't have to have a written record of the decision regarding Mr McCririck, or you are seeking to provide reasons to this tribunal that were not before you at the time.
You could certainly recast that statement into many procurement decisions. Indeed, it was only a few weeks ago we discussed the Serious Fraud Office's inadequate minutes.

I personally find trying to take notes a terrible distraction from absorbing what is actually being said, so a minute taker is very useful. It is also important to make notes immediately after a meeting and ensure some sort of validation takes place. Clearly, in the McCririck case, Ms Hunt, didn't make adequate notes and the implication was that she was revising her account. It has the ring of those great statements by US officials, trying to emulate Houdini, uttering, "I have no recollection".

With greater and greater scrutiny of procurement decisions (think horsemeat and dangerous factories), I think we need to take note of the legal professions effectiveness of capturing notes. It seems to me, not taking note-taking seriously could be the nemesis of many CPOs.

But then again, is it always wise to create 'discoverable documents' and might that constrain commercial discussions?

Strangely, we find another interesting lesson from Ms Hunt's evidence, someone had recorded something she said and it was referred to in the Tribunal. We are not told whether or not Ms Hunt was aware of the recording being made! But perhaps we are moving to a world where CPOs need to recognise the risk that the average mobile phone is both small and capable of making very high quality recordings. Should we alternatively harness that technology as a minute taking device?

Regardless of whether or not you have an excellent recollection of the contributing factors to procurement decisions, the clear lesson from the McCririck case is that, if you don't have good notes, you may find yourself in the manure (horse-racing technical term).

If I look into my pundits view of the world, I think it is a sure bet, that if the transparency agenda continues to be pushed, regardless of its effectiveness in public procurement, it is only a matter of time before all those precious notes will have to be published, and, excuse the mixed metaphor, will be singing like a canary. It will be a sad loss of those good ol' days of hushed discussions in shady corners, or will it?

No comments:

Post a Comment