Quarter of buyers would support oversight of local authority procurement by citizen panels

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
2 February 2015

A quarter of buyers would support the use of citizen panels to oversee the procurement decisions of local authorities, according to a poll.

When asked 'Should citizen panels be established to oversee procurement decisions taken by local authorities?', three members of the SM Jury voted “yes”.

However, a clear majority of nine were against such a use for the panels, which councils currently use to obtain opinions on local issues, and most felt they would create red tape.

Noel Cassidy, a procurement officer working for a college, was in favour of oversight from panels, though he was concerned about “unnecessary delays”.

“In principle I would say yes as it adds to the transparency of the process,” he said. “However, the devil is in the detail and it will depend on the terms of reference set up for the panel. Are they are just ensuring the purchase of goods/services are needed and offer value for money, looking at processes and ensuring compliance with procurement regulations, or looking at past decisions made?”

John Milne, procurement consultant at Hampco, also voted “yes”. “Wherever an organisation is subject only to self regulation there is a risk of inefficiency and corruption,” he said.

“All organisations, especially those spending public money, should be subject to scrutiny by business experts with proven expertise and accredited qualifications, otherwise we are wasting our money. Any citizens' panel should include at least one CIPS member.”

Bill Fyfe, head of procurement for the National Trust for Scotland, was dead against the suggestion. “Absolutely no,” he said. “Decisions must be based on data following a laid-down process and ensuring high ethical standards are met and there is no way you can have a random group influence that. It should also be noted that all procurement decisions are open to auditing.”

David Turner, director of Spend Solutions, said: “Public sector procurement already suffers from burdensome bureaucracy that leads to procurement paralysis. Such citizen panels would act as yet another layer slowing further the already laborious process.”

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