Culture change needed in local government procurement

15 March 2012

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15 March 2012 | Adam Leach

The chief executive of Hampshire County Council told an audience of buyers that the public sector needs to adopt a culture that incentivises efficiency.

During his speech at the Procurex National conference, Andrew Smith said the nature of certain aspects of local government funding, such as grants per school, incentivised the building of infrastructure or growing of services rather than efficiency and full use of resources.

He said: “I think we had a period of growth in the public sector where some of the incentives were perverse, I’m not making a judgement whether they were good or bad but sometimes there are unintended consequences of developing funding streams which frankly encourage you to do something which might not be the most efficient corporate thing to do. It’s a tough question, how do you say to your organisation, ‘don’t take the resource because we probably don’t want to do this’?

Smith spoke of an increasing need to bring about a change in culture that drives efficiency and encourages collaboration in procurement. He said: “There can’t be a near term prediction that in the next five to 10 years we’ll see significant growth in public resources and therefore there won’t be a better time to engage in that cultural change.”

One possible way of helping to drive the cultural change, according to Smith, would be to change the title of procurement: “One of my throwaway lines when I speak to people about procurement is to find another name for procurement officers because sometimes they are dogged by the past, yet their future is nothing but exciting.”

He also suggested that in order to drive engagement of procurement initiatives buyers assign them a descriptive name.

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