Friday, 25 November 2016

Gove turns his guns on procurement and programme management

One time thought to be a contender to become PM, former Secretary of State for Education, and Secretary of State for Justice has set his sights on public sector procurement and programme management professionals today, in a Comment piece in the Times. I will watch with interest the Letters section to see if CIPS reply.

Gove does a fine job of cataloguing procurement and programme management disasters. Indeed, many of the cases he cites are those I have blogged about in the past and/or used as case studies when training.  I will spare you an echoing of the cases; the average man or women on the street is familiar with many of them anyway.

While it is interesting that Gove has put pen to paper on a subject dear to many of us, what is particularly interesting is who he considers to blame - the 'Sir Humphrey's but not the Ministers.

Gove calls for a shift to weekly reporting on progress to Parliament of procurements and programmes. Would there be enough Parliamentary time and, if there was the time, would we see any interest from MPs?

Controversially he also wants to
see the names of civil servants responsible for these programmes to be published, their explanations for failure (or success) recorded and those who've failed be removed while those who can demonstrate clear, measurable, success get promoted. I know this concept- let's call it accountability - may be somewhat revolutionary for our civil service.
This is an interesting notion but isn't Gove missing the point about why we have Ministers in charge of government departments?  It is the democratically elected politicians who have to call those in their own departments to account.  It is the democratically elected politicians who have to rein in the pursuit of unrealistic political timescales.  It is the democratically elected politicians who have to develop the skills to scrutinise and manage professionals to ensure that they deliver on their objectives. Yes, perhaps civil servants need to use a louder voice in explaining to politicians the risks of pursuing some projects. But you can't just point the finger at the civil servants without recognising a failure of political performance management.

Also worrying is the implication that civil servants are being influenced by lobby groups. Can he really believe that, and if he does, why doesn't he blow the whistle on what really amounts to corruption.

This, one time, very influential political may well have lost a lot of his power, but should he ever regain it, CIPS will have a major problem if they don't educate the former Secretary of Education now.

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