22 June 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Sir Digby Jones, head of the CBI, has called for public-sector procurement professionals to be better rewarded for their work.
In one of his final speeches before stepping down as director-general, he told the 2006 National Public Procurement Practitioners' Day in London this month: "Procurement is a professional activity which needs to be carried out by experienced, respected and properly remunerated staff.
"Those of you from the public sector are some of the few public servants I meet who I believe should be better rewarded.
"Greater rewards will encourage greater professionalism and the innovation that leads to long-term efficiency. It's not all about the dosh, it's about being shown the right respect, about being appreciated as a key player in the delivery of public services, about using your skills to improve
the quality of people's lives."
He also called for commercial directors to be on the boards of all major spending departments.
Sir Digby added that the "cost of poor procurement is high" and one difficulty was a shortage of trained staff.
"The challenge is to end the sort of sub-standard procurement that wastes public money and damages service provision."
The CBI wants to see the Professional Skills for Government programme and the departmental capability reviews used to address this. "But our concern is that this is not happening," he said.
He raised the importance of the public sector working with the private sector to improve innovation and said suppliers and procurement must be allowed some degree of flexibility to take risks.
"Smart procurement can necessitate an element of risk-taking, and this is where effective political leadership has a key part to play," he said. "The Public Accounts Committee needs to look at real value and encourage civil servants to take risks in the pursuit of innovation and enhanced quality, and not attack them for doing so."A report on shared services published by the CBI last week said Whitehall could save up to £560 million over the next two years if it merged back-office functions, such as HR and finance. It cited aggregation of buying power and the reduction of duplicated work as benefits.