Government should ‘show leadership’ on public sector supply chain slavery

Central government needs to do more to train public sector buyers on the risk of modern slavery in their supply chains, a senior public buyer has said.

Andy Davies, director of the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC), said government needed to show leadership when it came to making sure buyers in education, health, local government and other areas of the public sector had the skills to manage and mitigate the risk of human rights abuses and modern slavery in their supply chains.

Speaking at eWorld, Davies said: “I think it is about time government did show some leadership on this for public service.

“We ought to be looking at the government to say, where are the tools, where’s the leadership, where can we get the training, where can we get the development? Because as public buyers it needs to be in our skillset just along with all the commercial stuff, all the financial stuff.”

He added that government had given “quite good guidance” on why bidders might be excluded from competitions, but that the public sector needed advice and support beyond that, particularly on how it can work with suppliers on these issues.

Davies also said he was still waiting for the training and support materials to help the public sector implement the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Businessa and Human Rights. “Ours was the first nation to publish an action plan to implement the guiding principles, but let’s just say we’re still waiting on the training and support materials we’re all going to get to implement the guiding principles in the work that we do.”

The LUPC has recently published its own toolkit designed to help public procurement practitioners protect human rights in their own supply chains. The e-learning models have been made freely available on the LUPC website and include a module on compiling a modern slavery statement.

Davies also called on central government and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to be more transparent over their due diligence processes and provide more information on what they are doing to identify and address modern slavery risk. “We’d like to see a little bit more flesh on the bone,” he said.

He added that while the Home Office was looking to collaborate with LUPC and the Local Government Association, central government including the CCS needed to do so with more organisations. “We [the public sector] are spending £240bn upwards in public service on goods and services, that ought to make us an influential team of buyers,” he said.

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