Sunday, 5 October 2014

Marvel at the superheroes of central government procurement once again

Today's Business Section of the Sunday Times carried an interesting piece on the work of Bill Crother's in central government - he has clearly taken on the mantel of a superhero. What caught my eye was Crother's statement: “Where we have come from four years ago, we’ve made great strides, but there’s a long, long way to go.” 

I do not deny that significant progress may well have been made, but what I think we are all due is an explanation as to why the situation was, and continues to be so bad? When I reflect on the last 20 years we have had many in central government also implying they were procurement superheroes and often adopting quite an arrogant stance telling the NHS and local government 'how to do it'. Where are they now and what dod they actually leave behind - if Crother's is right, a mess. I will not start to name the names, but surely there is a need for some 'calling to account' as to what they actually achieved from their lofty positions - was it all rhetoric? It would be quite easy to do a trawl of Supply Management, for example, and read the how the superheroes of the past were going to sort out public procurement. They were held up as exemplars but never fell. They were never to blame, but sorting out a mess they had inherited! Sound familiar? 

As I see it we are likely to see this repeated over and over again because there does not appear to have been any meaningful performance management system which the incumbents answer to, nor any retrospective personal accountability. Call me a cynic, but before you do, tell what's actually changed over the last four years and how the latest superhero will be called to account?

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