Thursday, 29 December 2016

Barcodes in the NHS - I'm mystified, tell me I'm wrong.

"Barcodes are going to be used in the NHS" has been a headline story on the TV today and in the press.  Now I've had more than my fair share of NHS treatment over the years and I completely support harnessing the potential of barcode use.

I'd also like a barcode to be issued to me the moment I enter the A&E carpark, yes the carpark, and that then tracks how long it takes until I leave with a hopefully a smiley face - shouldn't waiting time be reported from the time I arrive on site, shouldn't there be something which sets aside hospital carparking fees when the cause has been NHS queuing inefficiency?

However, back to the real world, what struck me with the TV coverage of the story was that the practitioners were not emphasising patient tracking, risk management and accountability, but stock control! Stock control?

I am absolutely mystified, that after so many 'cost down' initiatives in the NHS, we are being led to believe that it is only now barcodes are being piloted in stock control. Let's remember barcodes were introduced in the 1970s. The news coverage suggests a pilot NOT a rollout, mind you.

I would really like to be reassured that basic good practice stock control and purchasing, including the use of barcodes, has been practiced for years and that the news coverage is misleading?  I'd like to understand, and have a darn good explanation why barcodes haven't been used and I'd like someone to explain why the potential cost benefits have been missed?  If the news coverage is correct, and barcodes are not widely used, I would like to understand the NHS strategy for Innovation transfer? In fact, could someone explain to me who will give an explantation why the Government's 2008 white paper on innovation doesn't seem to have been performance managed?

Monday, 26 December 2016

It's time for a review of the impact of procurement legislation

Today The Times reported that the Ministry of Defence takes bribery and corruption very seriously and has made dozens of allegations about bribery and corruption in supply chains.   Now, I ask you, which organisation is going to admit it doesn't take bribery and corruption seriously?

However, often when I meet with 'procurement leaders' and make reference to the Modern Slavery Act, and/or the Bribery Act, I don't get the impression either of those pieces of legislation are taken that seriously at all. Indeed, I am often left with feeling nothing is really happening there.

Perhaps, as a profession, it is time to take stock and ask what difference these types of legislation actually have on the procurement community.  Are we fooling ourselves?

Surely if the profession is committed to the spirit of the legislation it would make sense to lead an impact assessment to establish 'so what?'.  Commitment to the spirit of the legislation isn't enough.  I suggest we need performance management, and yes, sanctions on those within the profession - I have to think long and hard to recall any 'naming, shaming and being struck off' - are we fooling ourselves that all is rosy.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Why did government and Deloitte agree to 6 months of no bids?

While I can understand the annoyance of #10 over a leaked paper on its approach to managing Brexit, I have struggled all day to understand why the UK Government and Deloitte have agreed to a six-month no bidding period as a consequence - is this not must a lose-lose agreement?

Let's set aside the leaking of the document and whether or not Deloitte had any control over its arrival in The Times, was it a validate assessment of the UKs preparedness? There used to be a hackneyed saying about 'speaking the truth onto power', if the assessment was correct, maybe the government needed to hear.  If the assessment was flawed, why take any action at all?

Then we come to the issue of the six-month separation. The suggestion is that the government may not suffer as a result of Deloitte not bidding. But what if Deloitte had a particularly smart way of answering a problem which the government is faced with over the next six months - aren't the government 'cutting off their nose to spite their face'?  How does that stack up against the pursuit of value for money?

Alternatively, if a bidder, just any bidder, deliberately opted out of bidding and signalled that intention to its competitors, isn't very close to distorting the market.  What if you turned that on its head and the buyer said, "we've removed one of the competition"?

What if the outcome is that the government have trouble getting bidders? Wouldn't that put the government at a disadvantage in trying to get its work done; assuming the work needed done in the first place.

Then again, how would all this agreement to no bidding sit within the EU procurement rules? Assuming the government exerted some pressure on Deloitte to arrive at such an odd settlement, is that remotely compatible with the existing principles of the Market?

So how will this manifest itself over the next six months?  Have Deloitte's voluntarily agreed to a six month blacklisting period during which they will not be invited to bid?  If they are awarded a contract by mistake, will it be set aside? What will the memo to departments setting out the current position say?

Monday, 19 December 2016

Lagarde conviction should be a warning for all those involved in procurement governance

Today Christine Lagarde was convicted of criminal charges of negligence for failing to challenge a decision and merely rubber stamping.  Lagarde, currently the IMF chief, former French Finance Minister and ally of former UK Chancellor George Osborne in pursuit of his austerity strategy, has long been one of the most respected commentators and regularly appeared on Newsnight, for example.  She would have been an exemplar in a world when politicians are losing respect. While she will not be spending Christmas in jail, the view is that she could have been looking at one year in prison and a €13,000 fine.

This highly unusually high profile case must serve as a wake-up call to those involved in governance; rubber stamping is insufficient.  Governance is about representing the interests of the organisation and protecting it through scrutiny and asking clever questions, and dare I say, particularly those involved in investments and procurement.  The 'professional' experts should have nothing to fear in providing assurance of how they have arrived at recommendations.  The scrutiny of the 'approvers' is the last QA line of defence before committing the organisation to what could prove, in retrospect, to have been a mistake.

Here in Northern Ireland, the First Minister, Arlene Foster, is facing calls to step aside while an investigation is carried out into her involvement in the daft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme, which provided the perverse incentive of rewarding users to over-heat their properties.  One can assume that the Lagarde outcome will stir the pot at the Northern Ireland Assembly more. Did, Foster, when she was overseeing the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, ask clever questions, did she merely rubber stamp, or ...?

I am reminded of David Steele's defence when he was challenged over some of the decisions in the Scottish Parliament building fiasco  - Ministers were kept in the dark by civil servants!  I think that escape route is unlikely to be acceptable anymore or haven't the lessons been learnt?

After years of working on governance processes and the associated risk management, I think that both Lagarde and Foster are far from alone in how they have 'exercised' governance, and I doubt the lessons will be heeded or welcomed by many.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Trump's Twitter procurement strategy?

Donald Trump has redefined how to use Twitter. Still President Elect, as opposed to President, he appears to have adopted a 'shoot from the hip' approach to policy and announcements. In the UK politicians were criticised from making announcements on TV as opposed to Parliament, but this is of a different order.

One of the stories which dominats the US news today is President Elect, Donald Trump's 'Cancel the order' Tweet.  The order being with Chicago-based Boeing for a new version of Air Force One.  The Tweet is effectively saying "I am going to block this contract as I believe it is no longer a good deal". Now, that will send tidal waves through contractors and those in procurement in US public procurement! What will become the new modus operandi?

Needless to say Trump's estimate of the $4bn is challenged by many. Boeing, it appears, haven't even secured the deal!  Then you've got the reality that the plane is unlikely to be delivered during Trump's residence of the Whitehouse anyway - it will be other Presidents' plane as opposed to his. Transition is taking on a new completion now and for his successor.

Anyway, is Trump ushering in a new style of Twitter usage, a new style of public procurement negotiations, or a new style of procurement strategy?  If other political and business leaders chose to follow his style this will create a very real and present danger for procurement professionals. Trump has built a reputation of saying "You're fired" what's that mean for procurement?