To err is human

3 December 2008

Rebecca Ellinor By Rebecca Ellinor

We all make mistakes and if we’re unlucky they end up costing money. In the case of the Central Procurement Directorate in Northern Ireland, failure to follow procurement rules that resulted in the cancellation of a framework deal is an error that may cost the Department of Finance and Personnel “hundreds of thousands” – in addition to time wasted.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ decision to cancel the tender process for the £1 billion Post Office Card Account contract has seen it agree to compensate unsuccessful bidders with “reasonable costs”. While this is surely a political rather than a procurement decision, the outcome is the same – wasted time, effort and hard cash.

It’s perhaps no surprise that these are public sector examples, given that the spenders of taxpayers’ money have to be open and accountable – while errors in the private sector more often occur behind closed doors. In an effort to move forward from mistakes, SM is launching a ‘lessons learnt’ series. You’ve told us that although it’s good to hear about the shining examples of procurement excellence, it would also be useful to hear from those who’ve got it wrong.

So this isn’t about naming and shaming – it can be done anonymously – the point is we’ve all been there and if we share experiences perhaps we can prevent colleagues and peers falling into the same traps. If you’re brave enough to start us off, get in touch at the usual address.

On another note, we hope the articles in our Low-cost Country Sourcing Special, beginning on page 31, provide practical insight into the experiences and expertise of others. And for those of you still looking for shining examples (which we’ll continue to highlight), enjoy our cover story on Sellafield’s award-winning approach to corporate responsibility.

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