13 February 2014 | Gill Hibberd
Times are still tough for local authorities, as central government cuts continue. Gill Hibberd explains procurement’s role at Buckinghamshire County Council.
Describe your relationship with procurement?
I have a strong relationship with the procurement team, both as a customer and as the accountable director for the service. The team’s remit is now much broader than before and procurement is the hub of all commercial advice and activity across a diverse organisation. The team brings unique skills and insight to the council.
Has your view of procurement changed?
Procurement was previously seen as a very narrow support function whose remit was to advise on and carry out tendering processes. It has now developed into a broader, more strategic and business-critical service. The commercial skills and acumen that the team brings are invaluable in helping us to look at more innovative and cost-effective ways of delivering council services.
Has procurement assisted specific projects?
The team is involved in a wide range of projects, from procuring
a major new ‘energy from waste’ contract worth in the region of £800 million, to helping to find cost-effective suppliers of printing and stationery supplies. The team is also adept at doing detailed category reviews of spend to help us to look at driving out better outcomes and better value for every penny of public money we spend.
Where does procurement really add value?
Procurement adds value in a number of ways. The team helps us to understand the market and how it can be developed. They identify opportunities to deliver more efficient and effective services, and to help drive cost savings and value from a large and complex supply chain. Procurement also brings best practice in terms of contract management processes.
Where can procurement provide more support?
The next couple of years are going to be very testing
for the public sector. Procurement can provide
more support by helping to drive and embed more commercially minded thinking across a wide variety
of services, so they can ensure that public value is provided to local taxpayers.
Can you quantify the value of procurement?
Absolutely, procurement’s vital contribution to the business can be measured in a number of ways. Direct cost savings
through improved supply chain management; efficiencies through category management of spend; and improved value-add from customer feedback.
Is working with procurement easy enough?
Yes, they are accessible and operate as business partners. The ‘rules’ of procurement can often be seen as barriers to the rest of the organisation. The measure of strong procurement professionals is to present options in terms of how they can help to meet business needs, rather than imposing a list of rules that have to be followed.
How can the working relationship between procurement and other departments improve?
By being totally in tune with the organisation’s needs and delivering measurable value.
☛ Gill Hibberd
is strategic director for resources
and business transformation at Buckinghamshire County Council