The decisions we make in 2021 will shape the way our public institutions procure goods and services for a generation.
Even before the findings of the Government’s consultation on transforming public procurement are published, two concise documents published this summer throw down the gauntlet for public sector buyers, and impact the commercial solutions we put in place for them.
Alongside measures to ensure our buying is sustainable and socially responsible come new demands on us all as procurement professionals.
Buying organisations like the one I lead will need to act decisively and at pace if we’re going to play our part in helping the country to build back better, fairer, and greener.
The National Procurement Policy Statement
The National Procurement Policy Statement brings together half a decade of procurement reform, mostly issued in the form of Procurement Policy Notices – the guidance notes produced regularly by the Cabinet Office to clarify and evolve our buying practices.
It sets out a number of ‘national priority outcomes’ that will feel familiar to anyone who has been following the developing narrative of public sector procurement over the last couple of years – backing new business growth, diversifying supply chains, delivering greater social value, and supporting the achievement of carbon net zero targets.
These are the outcomes that our public sector customers are already using to drive their buying decisions and are at the heart of our commercial agreements.
Just as important, but perhaps less glamorous, is the statement’s strong focus on commercial capability.
As an organisation facilitating and guiding the procurement decisions of public buyers across the entire UK public and third sector, Crown Commercial Service has a responsibility to ensure we’re living those practices. That’s where a second recent announcement comes into play.
The Declaration on Government Reform
The National Procurement Policy Statement arrives in tandem with a renewed emphasis on Civil Service Reform.
Our commercial colleagues across government will be studying the Declaration on Government Reform extremely closely, and applying its principles to their own organisations.
Across the whole public sector, organisations need to ensure that their strategic workforce plans, their strategies to boost inclusion and diversity, and their decisions on how to balance office, remote and home working put the right people in the right place to deliver on their priorities.
Digital transformation, innovation and evaluation must form the bedrock of strategic planning, and the procurement system needs to be ready to link the public sector up with the technological innovators that will boost our performance.
As we change, we have to be ready to change together, in partnership with ministers, policy leaders, and our colleagues in every corner of our public sector.
Planning for the future of public procurement
For my part, I’m confident that Crown Commercial Service is making good progress in planning for the future public procurement system that we know is at a crucial, formative stage right now.
The National Procurement Policy Statement and Declaration on Government Reform, in tandem, speak to the same themes; the continuous improvement of our people, the proper evaluation of our performance, and strengthened partnerships, that will, collectively, enable us to build back better from the disruption of the pandemic.
You can find a full list of Crown Commercial Service commercial agreements and details of how to build policy considerations into your procurement in our interactive digital brochure.
☛ Simon Tse is CEO of the Crown Commercial Service