Public sector procurement needs to be more 'defined'

13 March 2013

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13 March 2013 | Anna Reynolds

CIPS CEO David Noble has argued that a higher profile for procurement in the public sector could greatly improve performance on major public projects.

Speaking at the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) hearing yesterday Noble said: “Procurement needs to be more defined about what it actually does as a profession. There have been significant steps forward but it doesn’t go far enough across government.”

He also said the profession needs to be licensed at all levels to attract the best and to give the activity the necessary authority.

He added problems arise in large projects, with money often lost in post-contract claims, because management is not sustained across the whole contracting process.

But he said: “There is an international perception that UK public procurement is ahead of the game. We are working with central government to get leaders to share skills.”

Andrew Coulcher, director of business solutions at CIPS, told MPs policy teams need to be trained in procurement, which would enable much closer involvement of the two functions.

Also giving evidence to MPs was Peter Smith, managing director of consultancy Procurement Excellence. “There is a lack of political focus on procurement coming from the top – there is no government secretary who has come up through procurement,” he said. “There are some good people at senior level, the issues lie further down the public sector where there is a skills gap.” He added the Government Procurement Service is helping to solve this by developing category management skills in the civil service.

He also identified a problem with big contracts is that procurement managers want to get everyone involved: “There are too many stakeholders and the process takes too long,” he told the committee.

He added that the number of people doing CIPS qualifications shows there is “a hunger” to learn, but staff are reluctant to take up training courses because they don’t think they will stay in the public sector.

Coulcher concluded: “This is an opportunity for the government to do some research into what skills are required in the public sector. We need to be far more joined-up on a local, regional and national level.”

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