Problems are usually not far away when politicians devote their energies to formulating procurement policy. Their efforts usually fall into two categories. The first category is what I call 'empty rhetoric'. This is usually designed to keep the lobby groups and media happy. A good example of this category is the huge announcement by Al Gore in 1994 that e-commerce was going to be used across the US public sector which would save billions of dollars and revolutionise procurement. The outcome was nothing happened and every one forgets the commitment was ever made.
The second category is what I term as 'unhelpful meddling'. In most instances, the average politician would be advising on the benefits of aggregating drawing pins and carrying out a chair standardisation policy. And before any one comments on this, I used to be an elected politician many years ago. However, this meddling becomes more dangerous when they actually get into policy setting. If the problem was introducing competition into markets and making it easier and cheaper for companies to access public sector business, then some one clearly asked got the wrong solution when they came up with the EU Public Procurement Directives. The only things that these Directives have achieved are delays, unnecessary bureaucracy, and cost hikes as someone has to pay for the increased cost of sale.
Now Barack Obama is entering the fray. You can download a summary of his proposals here and don't worry it is only a few pages long. Clearly, a lot of this is political propaganda, but there are some interesting concepts in here. The big question for me is which of my categories does this fall into, 'empty rhetoric' or 'unhelpful meddling'? The answer may well end up being both. The US is facing big financial problems, and there are rumours that some states are now technically insolvent. Cash will need to come from somewhere. At the same time, the US government has long been into social engineering its supply base to the point at which commercial reality is suspended. Which of these will gain the backing of the President? Let me have your views via the comments sheet.