Labour peer states procurement wasn't a priority before crash

2 May 2012

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2 May 2012 | Rebecca Ellinor

Former secretary of state for transport and now Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis said yesterday he never paid attention to procurement while he was in office.

Speaking at the Office Depot Strategic Thinking Forum event in London, Adonis said: “Before the crash, budgets were rising sharply, the number of staff was rising and investment was on the increase. In the age of austerity, senior managers, including ministers who were not interested in procurement in the past, now find it very high on their agenda.”

The event, which was as a strategy day for procurement and facilities management professionals in the private, public and third sectors, opened with an interview with Lord Adonis, conducted by TV journalist Kate Silverton.

Lord Adonis went on to describe what he saw as a “deep schizophrenia” in UK government to both centralise and decentralise purchasing. “Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is centralising procurement in a lot of government departments with Whitehall-wide deals on areas such as print but we’ve also got decentralisation in the public sector at health trusts and schools.”

As reported by SM on 27 April, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee said there is tension between the priorities of public sector buyers that could affect value for money. The group said the government needed to be clearer about where it wants buyers to use economies of scale and where it wants to buy locally.

Lord Adonis also said while there have been efficiency reviews in the past, the cuts being made now were real and unprecedented in scale. In order to cope, he said purchasing managers needed to have a good sense of humour and be able to look beyond ministers' rhetoric to find the reality of what's really happening.

The interview was followed by a panel discussion. Joining Lord Adonis was procurement director Joe Pitman, Office Depot’s head of procurement Matthew Smith and FM World editor Martin Read. Pitman warned purchasers not to focus only on due diligence or push suppliers into over-consolidating their offerings.

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