Procurement teams need to innovate now and not delay their plans until the Procurement Bill to come into force, heard delegates at the Procurex Conference in Birmingham.
An initial presentation by the Cabinet Office informed attendees that procurement reforms should come into force in October 2024.
But Connected Places Catapult association, Malcolm Harbour, urged that current procurement legislation already allows for innovation and firms should start capitalising on this immediately to tackle the issues facing the profession.
Harbour said: “Don't hold back on innovation because you're waiting for the Cabinet Office to get this legislation through.”
He added: “The UK economy does not have enough time to put a stop on innovative use of procurement. We need new ideas; we need you out there cultivating suppliers and securing suppliers and knowledge.
“I absolutely don't want to see a freeze going on in people wanting to advance procurement and try new ideas simply because they're waiting for autumn 2024. This is a hell of a long way away. With all the challenges we face – from how to deliver net zero, to upgrading housing and AI – we can't afford to hang about.”
In addition to supporting innovation, speakers also discussed the wider benefits of the reforms being developed, particularly around changes to processes.
The Cabinet Office’s deputy director of procurement reform, Lindsay Maguire said the reforms would “streamline processes”, while administrative processes will “be standardised in such a way that there'll be much easier in reality to use.”
She said: “Obviously there is going to be a little bit of a resources implication. But we genuinely think that saving time, making procurement a lot smoother and cutting down timescales will offset any admin.”
But the Welsh government’s director of commercial and procurement, John Coyne, cautioned that while the Procurement Bill is an exciting opportunity, buyers should not expect to see immediate benefits.
“Procurements of the past will be consigned to the past, and innovation and flexibility will be the future. But, it will take considerable time for us to see the benefits on the ground,” he said.
Coyne added: “By the very nature, things will be slightly more complicated. But I think there are also tremendous gains from the changes that are coming through, which will free up and deregulate to an extent, and particularly to innovate.
“I think what is very important – and beholden on us – is to never forget the goal here, and that goal is to improve. And therefore we have to be able to look at the burden that is being placed not least on the supply chain, and see if we can support them further.”
Clarion Housing Group director of procurement, John Wallace, said it isn’t helpful for leadership teams to focus on administrative burdens.
“I think from a procurement leadership perspective, I think it's important that we move on from the issue around bureaucracy, because that's not going to go away. I'm spending a lot of time trying to encourage everybody to look at the positives of the bill, including the procedures such that our business looks at the changes positively, because I need them to,” he said.
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