How Scotland delivered its first-ever public procurement strategy

Scotland has developed its first government-wide procurement strategy in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

The goal of the strategy, which will run between 2023 and 2028, is to provide a high-level vision for Scottish Public Procurement which all public sector bodies are expected to align with. 

Scotland’s Public Procurement Group (PPG) consists of four different sectors, namely the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges, Central Government Procurement, NHS National Procurement, and Scotland Excel, each of which previously followed an individual approach. 

However, there was no overarching strategy prior to the end of the pandemic. 

The Scottish Procurement and Property Directorate’s senior change manager who led the procurement initiative, Kirsty Lamb, told Supply Management the challenges of Covid-19 highlighted the need to have a cohesive procurement approach. 

Lamb explained: “Coming out of Covid, we needed to make sure we were all cohesively working in that collective direction of travel, so we could ensure we get that economic recovery together. It’s important that we’re all working to the same hymn sheet, but also that all of our partners and suppliers know what we’re aiming at, and they can collectively come on that journey with us.”

She said the government had created a “golden thread” to ensure the procurement heads, sector chiefs, and suppliers were communicating at all times on the development of the plan. 

The first draft was shared with the different procurement bodies and suppliers, and the Directorate conducted numerous sit-downs and meetings to discuss how the project should be refined throughout the process.

“I was getting all sorts of amazing feedback and input, calls and meetings,” she said. “People could see that what they were inputting into the roundtables and the meetings was coming through in the next version of the strategy. They really felt like they had input and influence over how it was shaped. It was brilliant.”

Lamb said her methodology was “looking to fail fast”, asking first what wasn’t going to work for people, and then iterating on policy from there.

The Directorate also regularly engaged with the Procurement Supplier group, which brought together SME, third sector, and larger organisations, to help shape the plan. 

Part of the strategy includes the development of appropriate shared processes and tools to provide consistency for both buyers and suppliers. E-procurement was the biggest enabler of this consistency, but Lamb was clear that implementing a high number of different technology and automation tools meant she would have to consult all the procurement heads of the PPG to confirm what was needed.

Lamb explained the constituent groups all work in “very different environments” so the strategy had to ensure processes would be “flexible enough and open enough” to be applicable to “anybody at any stage”. 

She added: “We’ve tried not to be too prescriptive, but as prescriptive as we can be in making sure we’ve got the ambition and the vision.”

The strategy outlined four key enablers for it to be successful, including developing capabilities and talent, supporting suppliers, creating effective processes and tools, and strengthening collaboration across the public procurement landscape.

The strategy’s overarching goal is to “put public procurement at the heart of a sustainable economy to maximise value for the people of Scotland.”

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