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National GO Awards 2014/15 – judging excellent procurement

Monday February 3rd, 2014

I am very much looking forward to being one of the judges for the GO National Excellence in Public Procurement Awards 2014/15.

I have judged some fine entries and some less exciting ones over the past few years. It is always good to be one of the judging team as public procurement is a very important element of public service. An increasingly significant amount of public expenditure is deployed to the services and goods which are procured from the business, voluntary and social enterprise sectors and even from the public sector itself.goaw14_emailimage2

Public procurement, especially in a time of austerity and severe public expenditure cuts, has to secure both value for money and wider social and public value. Procurement has to be acknowledged by political and executive leaders across the public sector as one critical means of delivering their wider agendas and objectives.

Procurement professionals in the public sector have to step up to the challenge of demonstrating their wider value and contribution to their public sector employers and their communities. They have to be strategic and visionary. They have to engage with their policy and operational colleagues – and usually their colleagues in other public sector organisations. And they have to have good relations with suppliers and potential suppliers.

They also have to be excellent risk managers and not overly risk-adverse. They have to have commercial skills and not simply buying expertise. Market shaping is a key part of their role, as is advising policy colleagues and politicians on risk, commercial and market issues.

Commissioning is very important in the public sector and procurement has to be recognised not as the same but as one means of implementing decisions arising from strategic commissioning. Procurement and commissioning professionals have to work closely together. The two processes are complementary but should not be confused or conflated.

Excellent public procurement professionals must be able and willing to say ‘no’ to policy and operational colleagues, and to politicians including ministers when procurement or the wrong kind of procurement would be the wrong approach. An example of this would be to challenge political pressure to outsource when this would be a destabilising or inappropriate solution.

When I am judging the entries for the GO Awards I am looking for procurement that holistically or partially:

  • is aligned with wider corporate objectives
  • secures social value as well as value for money – exceeding the requirement of the Public Services Social Value Act
  • is based on ethical values
  • involves service users, citizens and staff in decision-making
  • has the confidence to involve potential suppliers in the pre-Invitation To Tender stage
  • is efficient and smart; and understands the cost of the process and considers its value in terms of long-term holistic value
  • is more interested in collaboration than competition
  • is based on appropriate risk policy with bold but effective risk management and effective risk transfer
  • is innovative and/or enables innovative services; and encourages suppliers to innovate
  • facilitates long-term flexibility and affordable change for the public sector
  • is focused on place and is cross public sector
  • is transparent and demands disclosure and accountability from suppliers and the procuring body
  • encourages and enables new entrants to the market, especially SMEs, charities and social enterprises
  • addresses supply chain management
  • complements strategic commissioning

This is a long list and I would not necessarily expect every entrant or public sector procurement team or project to be able to fulfil every one of these, but the more the better.

Ultimately an excellent public procurement should be judged not by the GO Awards judging team but by citizens, employees and service users.

Public procurement is not a simple technical process. It has to be a positive contributor to meeting the very demanding challenge confronting the public sector.

I know that there are potentially many great entries so let’s see them and not ones based on the outdated idea that procurement is simply about buying at the lowest price whatever the consequences. There is a real risk and some evidence that budget pressures are encouraging such appalling practice. Let public procurement demonstrate that it is better than this. It can be and can prove that it can be.

I hope that this article will encourage some exciting entries for the 2014/15 GO National Public Procurement Awards and prove the value of public procurement.

John Tizard
Twitter: @johntizard
Linked In: John Tizard


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