The penny 
drops

8 November 2011
Saint Homobonus, patron saint of procurementThe penny 
drops First this month, a hearty congratulation to the academics awarded the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine at the end of September. Their efforts to understand how decision-making is affected by the urge to 
‘spend a penny’ (to use 
an appropriate procurement euphemism) has seen nine researchers share the 
award, which recognises 
trivial or unusual 
scientific research. Part of the research demonstrated those 
with better control opted 
for a long-term reward, 
rather than a short-term financial gain. Something
to consider in those 
all-night negotiations. A law unto themselves To the CIPS Conference last month, where an interesting philosophical point was raised 
by a delegate in one of the legal seminars. The buyer in question reported that he had tried to explain the contract term ‘act of God’ to his young son, when the boy spotted a possible loophole – ‘What if you believe in Allah, or someone other than God?’ But lawyer Belinda Doshi pointed out the law is 
not open to such theological debates – it is a term 
for “events outside 
human control”. Drinking 
habits I received an email this 
week claiming that ‘champagne for life’ is the next “must-have” accessory. You pay a fee, get a card that you flash at participating venues and you get your 
first glass of bubbly on the house. And, if you go to one of these venues every day, you can keep yourself well oiled with the fizz. Personally, my non-corporeal being is now so well-travelled and known 
that I can turn up pretty much anywhere and get a glass of the local sake, vodka or schooner of light beer 
without having to take out 
my wallet. For those unfamiliar with this lifestyle, it’s nice to 
know such providers are 
out there. Winter 
wonders With the UK now in the grip of winter, companies will find their resilience plans start to be tested. As well as orders for 100 extra salt bins, 220 hand ploughs and 16 snow clearing vehicles, train operator Southeastern has bought 4,000 foil blankets and 
glow sticks that can be handed out to passengers should a train break down 
and the lights go out. A passenger association said the plan had an “element of despair” about it. Courts marshal cabs for inmates Prison transport has been making the wrong type 
of headlines over the 
past month. GEOAmey PECS was embarrassed when it was discovered some vans could 
not get over the ramp at the entrance to Bristol Crown Court, forcing defendants 
to be escorted into the building on foot. Perhaps they should have taken the same approach as Serco, which has been using black cabs to get prisoners to the court on time. The failure of a computer system has meant prisoners have had to make around 25,000 journeys in 
taxis, because they are 
“more reliable” at getting inmates back to prison 
on time. It will bring new meaning 
to the phrase “guess who I had in the back of my cab” 
I suppose. Gun slinging 
Russian-style Good news: Russia plans to stop buying Kalashnikov rifles. Bad news: it’s because they’ve already got millions of them in storage. A defence ministry 
source told a Russian newspaper that warehouses are “overflowing” with the guns, with enough to last the next 20 years. Manufacturer Izhmash said 
it was scared that the news 
would upset the gun’s 
91-year old inventor. “We 
don’t want to risk it and 
break such news to him. Maybe he wouldn’t survive 
it,” it said. But the supplier isn’t taking the buying freeze lying down, it plans to come up with an updated model to try to
prise the government’s 
wallet back open Tweet of the month @janeypound - Bah! Public procurement – one of the stupidest bureaucracies ever invented!
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