The antidote to public procurement cynicism

23 August 2012
You can quickly become quite cynical about public procurement in the UK, with its arcane rules, constant reform programmes and mistakes that make national headlines. But we take for granted that the biggest fear for the majority of our public buyers is that their error might end up on the six o’clock news, or splashed over the front page of the local newspaper. Sadly, for public purchasers working elsewhere in the world, this is not always the case. Take the recent story of Tatiana Behrová, appointed by the government this summer to lead the Slovakian public procurement agency. The Slovak Spectator reports just over a month into the job, Behrová has already been sent a handgun bullet and a death threat, which read: "If you don't stop, you'll go faster than you came here. This is the first and last warning, and if you don't stop with it, what comes next is the real thing in the envelope you've got! Mind what you're doing.” The police are now investigating, but as frightening as the scenario is, Behrová says she will not be put off, and is even more convinced the measures she is implementing are the right thing to do. I am bowled over by her dedication, and fear I would not be able to demonstrate that courage if I was presented with a similar situation. Stories such as this (in an EU member country, no less), and the murder of Keith Jubah - the head of the Liberian public procurement authority who tackled corruption in public procurement – are shocking. And they do well to remind those of us who become cynical to at least appreciate the (imperfect) system we do have.
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