Public sector goes global

20 June 2007
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21 June 2007 | Steve Bagshaw

Premier Conference coverage

"What has the public sector got to do with globalisation?", asked David Smith, commercial director at the Department for Work and Pensions. "Well, everything."

Speaking at a breakout seminar to a largely public sector crowd, Smith said that as the function becomes more commercial and "moves up the policy scale, making a business contribution," civil servants need to look at national and international sourcing.

But he acknowledged the inherent paradox of the government department whose "clients" include the unemployed outsourcing work overseas. "We run the risk of creating more unemployment here and creating jobs in other countries," he said. "We have a reputation to maintain and obligations to meet. But global is the market we are in, like it or not."

He was keen to point out that some services "just can't be outside the UK". But he added that while job losses are unfortunate, they are a short-term issue compared with year-on-year savings. "And the savings can be ploughed back into other government services."

Moving on he said another demonstration of the function's prominence was increased "contestability". "We are looking at services and making decisions as whether to make or buy," he said.

Considerations also include whether to buy certain services at all or to use the private sector. "The lines are blurring to what can be outsourced and what can be delivered on our behalf," he said.

Looking ahead, Smith views the biggest challenge facing public sector procurement will be its ability to recruit top talent. Continuing a theme raised on the first day plenary session, Smith said: "As we become more valued we need still to be able to attract the top people."

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