Buyers have to gain trust

17 November 2005
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17 November 2005 | Rebecca Ellinor

Local council procurement staff must get better at marketing themselves internally.

That is the message Dr Gordon Murray was expected to deliver at the Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government conference in London this week.

The programme manager for procurement at the Improvement and Development Agency told SM he based his views on numerous visits to local authorities across the UK. He found many were doing too little to demonstrate the benefits of involving procurement.

"Procurement people are not the only purchasers in the council. They are frequently not involved in the majority of strategic decisions relating to procurement and what's worse they are generally not even invited to the table," he said. "Often they're only asked to get involved once a decision has been taken to buy something."

He said part of the problem was procurement's inability to convince budget holders to trust them. He said they must demonstrate to others that they understand the issues, are not merely interested in policing spend and are prepared to share some of the risks involved in decision-making.

"If I'm the head of HR looking at bringing in consultants to help with recruitment, I carry the risk when I do it myself. "Once I share that with procurement I need to trust they can do it otherwise I introduce another risk," he said.

"To get a seat at the table procurement must professionalise itself and demonstrate that in a way that is meaningful and relevant to others."

He said such a strategy needed to contain a general current position statement, an objective of where procurement was to move to and an action plan explaining how it would go about it.

He said it should cover price, product, process, past experience and more. Managers needed to think about the alignment of procurement's objectives with those of the council and where they are currently, he added.

"Are they perceived as an administrative or clerical function? Have they demonstrated they can provide a good service based on achieving cost, quality, innovation and delivery objectives? If not, they need to show it."

Murray added that good examples of authorities which had carried out such strategies were Leeds, Carmarthenshire and Belfast.


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