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20 August 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The House of Commons and House of Lords have merged their procurement departments to provide better value for money and make buying more efficient.
In an exclusive interview with SM, director of parliamentary procurement and commercial service at the Houses of Parliament, Veronica Daly said she had also introduced a category management approach to buying.
Daly, a trained procurement lawyer, took up the role of director of commercial services at the House of Commons in February 2011, where she led the commercial and procurement function. She successfully introduced category management and changed the way procurement was viewed by stakeholders.
“I wanted to get people to see us as a completely commercial function which they could come to use when they wanted any advice about a commercial matter,” she said. “Procurement can be seen as people who just tick boxes and follow a process rather than adding any value on top of that. People can also see procurement professionals as risk averse and totally focused on compliance, and I think we had to rebrand the procurement professionals here so they could be seen in a different light.”
Daly said the success of the House of Commons teams helped to persuade the House of Lords to agree that the merger, implemented around six months ago, would be a good idea. When she first started at the Commons she could see that procurement could serve stakeholders better "if we were a unified service”. A clear benefit of this was sharing resources - during busy times at the House of Commons she had had to bring in interims.
“It was also about the fact that we had separate contracts for things which, I felt, was preventing us from getting the best deals,” said Daly. “If we joined together we could leverage spend and it’s also more friendly to a supplier who would be getting a bit frustrated [submitting two tenders for the same product].”
She insists that public sector procurement professionals understand the EU directives. “Nobody can be under any illusion that procurement is completely a legal area and it sometimes does surprise me that procurement professionals are not familiar with the directives and the regulations,” she said. “That’s something that I’ve had to make sure that my team are trained in. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me because I made assumptions that they knew the regulations like the back of their hand because that is what procurement is based on, but they didn’t.”
Daly added that being accredited as a London Living Wage organisation is one of the biggest achievements of her career. It means every contractor has to pay a living wage to employees, and all contracts say that staff must be treated in a fair way, including being paid a living wage.