The art of self-assessment

25 May 2009

26 May 2009 | Steve Bagshaw

The self-assessment model for Whitehall Procurement Capability Reviews (PCRs) will be "rigorous, transparent and subject to review," Nigel Smith has promised.

Speaking exclusively to SM, the OGC chief executive said that, despite some early misgivings about the change from external probes, he is: "Very comfortable with the model we've now got, which is self-assessment."

Under plans leaked to SM last month, the second phase of Whitehall departments' buying reviews will be carried out in-house.

"Initially I wasn't [in favour], to be quite honest with you. A pure self-assessment is only any good if it is a rigorous process. So I was worried."

But he said his mind was changed by guarantees the evaluations would have a rigorous framework, public transparency and be subject to external verification.

"We are working with departments to create a framework against which they will self-assess. It will have at its heart quantitative KPIs (key performance indicators)," he said.

"The second issue is this will be made public. Transparency of process is one of the most powerful things that leads to improvement, wherever you happen to be. Of course, in government you get into the mire of FOI (Freedom of Information) type issues. I understand the issues around government are slightly different to the private sector. But the principle of transparency is important because it leads to corporate responsibility and personal accountability. So there is a firm commitment that departments will be reporting publicly on their self-assessment of the PCR."

And he said these two elements would be backed up by outside judgement from "governance bodies, and myself as head of profession".This would not be a policing role but, he emphasised, "there will be external verification of the standard across government".

The identity of who carries this out has not been confirmed, but "it is likely to be the commercial delivery board [the governance body that looks after OGC] made up of senior permanent secretaries around central government." He added: "I will have a part to play."

Smith said: "This is a model [self-assessment] I have used in multi-national businesses."

The procurement capability reviews began in 2007. Sixteen central government departments have been externally assessed in the first phase.

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