Order, order, procurement must be allowed to speak

30 November 2011
As expected, yesterday's autumn statement did not have much that was new to say in terms of new procurement initiatives. While commitments such as completing all government procurements within 120 working days (except the most complex) and increasing communication between the public and private sector are interesting developments, we already knew about them thanks to Cabinet Office disclosure a couple of weeks ago. However, the time I spent watching the chancellor address parliament was not wasted. Watching the fiery debate, I began to see just how difficult it must be for procurement to get across the details and importance of initiatives to stakeholders. On the one hand, George Osborne was addressing the people’s representatives about the country’s future, but on the other he was just a manager trying to promote a cost-cutting plan to colleagues. And I don’t think he would have got past his acknowledgements (I believe he thanked Greece, Lehman Brothers and Gordon Brown) were it not for the speaker of the House of Commons on crowd control. Thanks to the calls for order from John Bercow, Osborne was able to read through his plans in detail. His stakeholders were a riotous bunch, those who supported him caused as much distraction as those who derided him, but thanks to the speaker, he communicated his policy and while many were unhappy, they could not claim to have not heard what he said. And then they were given their chance to respond. Now I’m not saying procurement should meet with the wider business as often as MPs in the House of Commons, but when it comes to launching a large-scale cost-cutting plan or efficiency drive that is central to the long-term viability of a business, why not get everyone in a room to hear the plans and then get all the issues and gripes out in the open? And all under the mediation of some kind of ‘speaker’ or chairperson. Just a thought.
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