Noble responds to Green criticism of public procurement

14 October 2010

14 October 2010 | Lindsay Clark

CIPS CEO David Noble has warned that Sir Philip Green’s vision for public sector procurement will need strong leadership and buy-in to make it a reality.

Earlier this week the Arcadia Group owner savaged public procurement in a government-commissioned report, saying that shocking spending data and poor collaboration across government created waste.

Noble welcomed many of Green’s findings, but warned that government was larger and more complex than private sector organisations. “It must be remembered that the government is hugely complex and better procurement won’t happen overnight,” he said. “While this report is a great start, we need a more detailed strategy to make the vision become a reality; its success will depend on strong leadership and gaining buy-in.”

Noble also said that centralising procurement with a few suppliers could put others out of business. “This could end up creating monopolies and damaging the economy as a whole,” he added.

Although there were examples of poor procurement in government, there were also instances of excellence, he said. “One of the main problems is that different departments just don’t speak to each other. It’s crucial that data and best practice are shared across departments which is why greater collaboration must be as much of a focus as centralised procurement.”

Noble warned, however, that the government needed to invest in procurement skills if it was to achieve greater efficiency. “One area not addressed by Sir Philip’s report is the lack of properly skilled procurement professionals in government. Too often large spending decisions are made by staff with no procurement training which is why so many mistakes are made. Better training and the hiring of more procurement professionals will be fundamental to reducing costs. This is an issue the private sector addressed years ago.”

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