Ministers should learn a thing or two about procurement

20 May 2010
There was a generally positive response to the idea, championed by MPs, by CIPS and our own editorial for the creation of a “minister for procurement”. But purchasing is not the only profession or sector keen to push itself into the new government’s in-tray. I notice proponents of a “minister for manufacturing” have also been putting forward their proposals this week. A report by the previous Parliament called Too Many Ministers? however recommended numbers – which had reached 119 by January – should be cut by as much as a third. And before the election David Cameron had planned to reduce the number of cabinet and ministerial posts – although this was, of course, before he had to hand out some juicy positions to his Liberal Democrat partners. You can find a full list of new ministers by clicking here. If there are indeed to be fewer places around the table, procurement will need a different approach to get on the agenda. I believe the key lies in education. Perhaps I am biased, because one of my previous jobs was working for a charity that helped educate politicians about how business worked (and vice-versa). But teaching secretaries of state the value of effective purchasing would make clear the benefits and guard against a sole procurement minister being sidelined by competing political interests. It would also allow ministerial numbers to be reduced, while promoting purchasing’s profile at the very highest level. How much more effective would government procurement be if the cabinet understood the effect it could have on their department? If Chris Huhne understood how public purchasing power could be used to innovate new green technology? Or if Michael Gove could knock heads together to develop a national collaborative buying programme for schools? But the question remains, how can we teach them what procurement has to offer?
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