Pointing the blame

During the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with all kinds of high-level decision makers.

Based on their responses, I believe we carry the blame for the continued mis- and under-representation of procurement on executive policy making committees.The prime reasons are that we are still failing to convince such decision makers that:

1. Procurement is a strategic, value-adding profession in its own right and deserves a seat in the boardroom.

2. The professional procurer deserves to report directly to the CEO.

3. Poor governance, contract-awarding fiascos and other corruptive practices associated with procurement are not usually directly committed by the procurer.

4. There is a conceptual difference between procurement, logistics, operations and supply chain management.

5. Procurement reporting to finance is technically a conflict of interest, hence the challenges faced by governments, businesses and society.

6. Titles such as chief procurement officer or chief supply chain officer are generally still not accompanied by the associated strategic responsibility.

7. Procurement is about development and strategic effectiveness and must be treated as a separate key, value-adding function in business and government.

8. For governments, procurement must be more than a number-crunching exercise and should ideally not report to the Treasury in order to harness its economic developmental potential.

9. As in other professions, all procurement practitioners and overseers must have a license to practice and strictly abide by a professional code of conduct.

10. The current representatives and overseers of professional procurers on executive committees must: a. Go through an accredited procurement-related professional development programme to acquaint themselves with the governance rules pertaining to procurement. b. Be members of a recognised procurement professional body to represent the function at executive committee level.

A colleague once told me: “Throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick.” In simple terms, it means that if enough accusations are made against a person or organisation, their reputation will suffer, whether or not it is deserved. Despite some positive image improvements over the past 10 years, there has been an increasing amount of negative occurrences, the consequence of which, if not collectively tackled, will have significant implications for current and future procurement professionals.

☛ Douglas Boateng is CEO of the PanAvest Partnership and a CIPS Fellow

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