May 14, 2010
After all the waiting, manoeuvring and back stabbing (surely not – I hear you ask), the UK now has a new Government! Far be it from me to comment on the practicalities of the ‘new politics’, but it is clear that new policies will have been bargained across a table rather than formulated through a rational process.
So where does this leave the procurement fraternity? Well, reducing the national debt is a clear priority, so logically we should expect the importance of procurement to have risen. That being said, I am far from confident that the potential for a significant percentage of overall budget reductions to be delivered through better procurement has been recognised. This is because both politicians and advising civil servants regard procurement as being about office furniture and janitorial supplies – i.e. shopping. Nick Clegg went as far as talking about ‘paper clips in Whitehall’ in the Leadership debates.
More alarmingly, I think the emphasis is now going to be on targets for SMEs. Anne Glover got this rolling with her report last year, as it is a popular policy that we can all sign up to. After all, SMEs allegedly employ over 60% of the workforce and contain entrepreneurs who can contribute to helping government achieve more for less. It all sounds like a script for a TV debate / popularity contest.
However, the practicalities of this in relation to the government business will mean that this is no more than an exercise in bureaucracy and ‘being seen to be doing something’ – a fixation with the last government. As I have said before, the bulk of public sector spend by value will be delivered by large multi-nationals, and enterprising small businesses will be shut out by the public sector obsession with framework contracts and antiquated procurement processes (starting at the pre-qualification stage).
Enterprising SMEs seeking to make money should target the dynamic private sector, unless of course, they prefer devoting their scarce resources to fudge production.