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Changing for the better

Wednesday March 28th, 2012

John Collington speaking at the GO Live Keynote Arena at Procurex National 2012

By Morven MacNeil, GO Content Editor

‘Change’ was the buzzword at Procurex National 2012 – changes to the procurement function are needed, these changes are happening and they are set to continue.

Procurex National 2012 provided vital information on how to meet the latest efficiency challenges and examined ways to turn these challenges into opportunities for the procurement profession to flourish.

Organised by BiP Solutions, the event took place on 13 and 14 March at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham. The third annual Procurex National event attracted a large number of delegates, exhibitors and key decision makers from across the procurement industry.

The GO Live Keynote Arena welcomed a strong line-up of industry leaders and experts who gave an invaluable insight into the key challenges facing the public sector procurement community, and many also joined in the Live Debate on these issues.

Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office & Paymaster General, said that government is open for business and must make it easier for SMEs to compete for public sector contracts.

He said: “The message is clear – Government has become a tough negotiator. But at the same time a Government that hunts for the best deals for the taxpayer is also good for business. Efficiency and growth go hand in hand.

“Why? Because we are opening up competition – we are opening our doors to all kinds of business and business models. Any firm with innovative and competitively priced products can be assured that Government is no longer a closed shop. The mindset is no longer big is beautiful.”

Mr Maude said there is now an aspiration that 25 per cent of central government spend will either go directly to or within supply chains through SMEs by the end of this Parliament. He expects the wider public sector to follow the Government’s lead on levelling the playing field for smaller companies.

On the issue of opening up the market for public sector contracts, Mr Maude said: “The world of dealing only with established companies with large balance sheets has gone: we are in a new world. The era of costly, gold-plated contracts held by a small oligopoly of suppliers is over. Business can be assured we are no longer a closed shop.”

John Collington, Chief Procurement Officer at the Efficiency and Reform Group, Cabinet Office, outlined the need for reform and the strategy in place for this, how the government is performing with this strategy to date, and explained some of the key results and challenges.

He said: “Savings on expenditure last year were £1.75 billion which were audited and verified by the NAO. It has been predicted that that figure will increase to £2 billion this year. As a consequence of the continued effort we’ve also delivered out lean standard operating procedures and from a personal perspective I think that is one of our major achievements over the past 18 months.”

Mr Collington stressed that the big challenge he foresees is resistance to change. He said: “The biggest challenge in a sense, and I’ve mentioned it before, is a resistance to change, from both buyers and suppliers. The thing with suppliers I still fear is that this initiative will go away and we’ll get back to the good old days where government will just turn to consultants to help us appoint some of the major IT companies. My message to those suppliers, large and small, is that those days are over, they really are over.”

Also taking place over the two days were 30 free training workshops in the Skills Development Zones and the exhibition area, which featured over 120 organisations representing both current and aspiring framework suppliers.

Procurement organisations and public sector suppliers across the country were also honoured for outstanding achievement at the National GO Excellence in Public Procurement Awards 2012/13, which took place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on the first evening of Procurex National 2012. To view the full list of winners and highly commended, click here

Overall, Procurex National 2012 brought together the public and private sectors with key advice on-hand for all delegates and showcased best practice in the procurement industry, setting the benchmark for others to follow.

Related links

UK procurement elite honoured at awards ceremony

Procurex National 2012 video footage

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