‘Jobsworths’ hold back public procurement

15 February 2010

15 February 2010 | Carly Chynoweth

Ignorance, a lack of professional capability and “jobsworths” are obstructing procurement’s ability to help restore public finances, according to Nigel Smith, CEO of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

In a candid speech at the Procurement 2010 conference in London last week, Smith also cited lack of transparency, poor spend data and too many buying points as other problems.

“These are the barriers we need to sort out – and sort out fast,” he said.

Smith did highlight much good work in the public sector, including record savings of £1.4 billion through collaborative procurement last year. But he stressed that challenges must be overcome if purchasing is to play a more central role protecting frontline services.

“The profession needs to rise to the challenge over the next few months and bring fresh thinking on structure, governance, processes, data and the skills needed to bring about a real revolution in public procurement,” he said.

He said procurement “should be a major driver in restoring public finances, it should be on the top table, professionally managed, provide full transparency of best value, be networked across the public sector, provide true aggregation and volume commitment, have massively reduced duplication in non-strategic spend, and be as much about bottom-up as top-down”.

“How we get there will require real innovation in our thinking on governance, processes and the use of data,” he added.

Smith’s comments came as the event’s keynote speaker, Ian Pearson, economic secretary to the Treasury, said better public sector purchasing could protect services in the face of spending cuts.

“Procurement professionals can do a lot to help us on this agenda,” Pearson said. “The more we save, the more we can do to protect frontline services.”

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