Simon Tse was appointed chief executive at the CSS in December 2018, and joined in 2016 as procurement operations director. © CSS
Simon Tse was appointed chief executive at the CSS in December 2018, and joined in 2016 as procurement operations director. © CSS

Real value of procurement is freeing up scarce resources

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is in the process of implementing a transformation to maximise financial benefits and build better relationships.

Simon Tse, chief executive at the CCS, said there were three main goals: maximising commercial benefits, building better relationships with suppliers, and driving economic growth through procurement policy.

Speaking at the Public Sector Solutions Expo in London, Tse said: “The real value in saving money for the public bodies that use our services is freeing up scarce resources that can be positively impacted elsewhere in the system.”

Tse was appointed chief executive in December last year, having carried out the role on an interim basis since July 2018. He joined CCS in 2016 and led the Procurement Operations directorate.

“CCS hasn't always got it right. And perhaps in the past, we've relied too heavily on our scale as an organisation,” he said.

In 2018-19, CCS had a spend of £15.7bn, £2.7bn more than the previous year. Examples of commercial savings being made included local authorities in West of England who saved £187,000 through an office supplies framework and three NHS trusts that made £9m savings on contracted doctors, according to Tse. 

“All of those [services] were able to redistribute the savings and resources, and put that sort of scale back into making a positive difference to the lives of residents, users, patients and school children across the UK. It demonstrates how well considered procurement really can deliver the life changing powers into the hands of public sector bodies across the UK.”

Tse said CCS customers wanted “pace, consistency, ease of use and engagement”, and the transformation plan aims to achieve better working relationships through this.

A challenge has been set for one third of procurement spend in the public sector to go to SMEs by 2022, and the CCS is ensuring increased opportunities for diverse suppliers. This includes lotting structures in tenders which consider the needs of smaller businesses so that the big corporations don’t always win.

Tse said: “We are trying to make certain that the way that we put our commercial vehicles together, whether it be a framework or a dynamic purchasing system, does not disadvantage SMEs. 

“We are working with the knowledge, experience and understanding that we have to make CCS easier to work with. Our customers need to know that they're getting the very best value possible, from assured suppliers both large and small, wherever they operate in the public sector.”

The CCS was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) in 2016 and the Public Accounts Committee in 2017 for not achieving value for money and failing to provide quality services.

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