‘Desk jockey’ label provokes reaction from purchasers

30 November 2009

1 December 2009 | Allie Anderson

SM readers have reacted strongly to depictions in the UK national press of procurement professionals as nothing more than “desk jockeys”.

A cartoon appeared in The Sun ridiculing Ministry of Defence (MoD) purchasers for being among the department’s 50,000 civil servants to receive a performance-related bonus, despite problems over shortages of equipment for frontline troops.

The same day, the Daily Mail described the BBC’s director
of procurement and revenue management, Beverley Tew, as
the “stationery cupboard boss”. It followed the BBC’s publication of the salaries of its top decision makers.

Responding to SM’s blog on the subject, Andy Brown wrote: “This is typical of procurement – whingeing about how important it is while not doing enough to change the perception of buyers being paperclip monitors.

“In the current climate they should be stepping up to the plate becausethey have a real contribution to make to their organisation’s future.”

Blogger “Bitter and twisted” responded: “I find it amusing. British defence procurement is a catastrophe, I’m in no mood to make common cause with MoD civil servants.”

Steve B commented: “The MoD problem is with the procurement process, not procurement staff. If customers always want the Rolls‑Royce solution and constantly revise the spec, delays and extra costs are inevitable.”

Blogger Carlton reacted with equal scorn at public sector purchasing. He added: “I work in the private sector and have public sector experience and I completely agree – public sector buying is highly paid admin with none of the real financial pressures of the private sector.”

Steve B added that while the demands of public and private sector purchasing are different, “finding a path through the legal minefield of the public sector is every bit as pressured as the private sector.”

“If public sector buyers were not held back by red tape, we would be able to do our jobs a lot more effectively,” commented JT.

“At the moment I have to wait 70 days to spend anything more than £139,000. Try pulling us out of the EU and Lisbon treaty fiasco and you may get a more vibrant service,” wrote JT.

Note: Steve B is not SM editor Steve Bagshaw.


Birmingham, West Midlands
HS2 Ltd
London (Greater)
£50,800 plus up to £10,000 Recruitment Retention Allowance
House of Lords
CIPS Knowledge
Find out more with CIPS Knowledge:
  • best practice insights
  • guidance
  • tools and templates