03 January 2008 | Andy Allen
None of 100 businesspeople asked to assess the commercial skills of public sector procurement professionals for a CBI survey rated them as "very good", and only 9 per cent rated them as "good".
The study revealed how poorly businesses rate public sector buying, with 50 per cent of respondents saying procurement skills within the sector were "poor" or worse. And 76 per cent of respondents said public procurement processes are subject to "significant" delay.
Such hold-ups can add an extra burden to the taxpayer, according to the study. More than a third - 34 per cent - of respondents said they priced delays in procurement processes into their contracts.
Meanwhile, dealing with changing specifications after an initial tender remains a bugbear for suppliers to the public sector. Almost half - 46 per cent - of respondents had frequent experience of this, and only 2 per cent had not experienced the problem at all.
Neil Bentley, CBI director of public services, said he was not surprised by the findings. He blamed the current skills shortage on the poor image of a career in the commercial, rather than policy-making, sphere of government.
He said the CBI supported the OGC's new capability reviews, which aim to improve government procurement (see cover story
). But he added that "the proof of the pudding" would lie in whether they led to genuine improvements.
Stephen Alambritis, head spokesman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said FSB members would be familiar with the survey's message.
"Winning public-sector contracts is a good way for any business to enhance its reputation. However, smaller businesses find it very difficult to get a foothold," he said.