Planning and flexibility key to DFID's Ebola response in Sierra Leone

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
15 October 2015

The UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has said the key success factors behind its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa were a committed team, clear and open communication and the deployment of expertise.

Anne Langley, head of programme sourcing at DFID, said they also had a pre-arranged plan in place, “a framework to hang our crisis on”, that assisted the vast sourcing and deployment of resources required to tackle the outbreak in Sierra Leone, where the UK is leading aid efforts.

Speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference in London last week, Langley said a key element of the procurement response involved being “agile and flexible” because events had moved so quickly.

“We would get all the way to a contract and then the requirement changed,” she said. “We didn’t chuck our toys out, we said: ‘OK, let’s move on’.”

Every contract involved an invitation to tender and bid assessment, which required “working round the clock”, said Langley.

Each morning there was a 10-minute meeting to discuss events over the past 24 hours, to ensure “no-one was treading on anyone’s toes”, while more than 100 stakeholders were mapped and assigned relationship managers.

In this way the equipment and support services for six treatment centres were purchased, along with laboratories and food and water for quarantined villages.

Local businesses were also supported where possible. “They sourced from local economies; they got a welcome injection of cash,” said Langley.

The work also initially involved identifying existing contracts in place in the country and scaling them back, suspending or terminating them as required.

“Having a plan is a massive help,” said Langley. “Know your people, know the expertise you have got. Communicate clearly and be ready to flex.”

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