Calls for procurement reform

24 May 2010

25 May 2010 | Lindsay Clark

Procurement professionals need to be at the heart of public sector savings, while senior management should take procurement more seriously, according to a senior figure at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Following the formation of the UK coalition government, the CBI called for re-engineering of public services to help reduce the £163 billion public sector deficit, including reform of procurement.

Speaking to SM, Susan Anderson, director of public service at the CBI, said procurement professionals should “be centre stage” during this transformation.

She claimed that senior managers, in earlier efforts to save on public procurement, had failed to take full responsibility for driving through business change necessary to capture the benefits of initiatives such as shared services and joint buying.

“It’s about culture: a senior manager does not get Brownie points for seeing through procurement, and that goes to the ministerial level. They get recognition for new initiatives. The responsibility [for change in procurement] has to lie with the senior management team. Procurement professionals sometimes say ‘we do not get a look in’, although they sometimes get
the blame. We have got to take them seriously.”

Some shared service initiatives had failed because once they achieved critical mass, and had a full team in place, additional public bodies were put off joining because they realised they would not be able to transfer staff. “They get cold feet because they do not want to make 
staff redundant, but [avoiding redundancies] 
is a luxury we cannot afford,” Anderson said.

However, she said to be effective in reducing public spending, professional procurement skills should be retained where possible. “Although no areas of public spending should be sacrosanct, procurement people should be centre stage.”

The CBI also re-enforced the claim it made in October’s pre-budget submission that improving public sector purchasing and reducing duplication in the process could save the public purse £13.5 billion by 2015-16.

Spelling out its priorities for the government in the document Time for Action: Reforming Public Services and Balancing the Budget, the CBI said savings could be achieved by re-shaping public service provision, including using the private and third-sector to deliver efficiencies.

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