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Monday November 1st, 2010

Alistair Merrill, Director of Procurement at the Scottish Government

By Morven MacNeil, GO Features Editor

For buyers and suppliers across the public and private sectors, Procurex Scotland 2010 provided invaluable information and opportunities to prosper in Scotland’s maturing procurement marketplace.

Key decision makers from all stages of the Scottish supply chain attended Procurex Scotland 2010, a free-to-attend event held on October 26 and 27 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow.

Attending Procurex Scotland 2010 gave buyers from the public and private sectors a platform to maximise the benefits of their purchasing functions and engage directly with the supplier community. The event was an occasion to network with professionals from across all industry sectors, providing attendees with an opportunity to seek out new business contacts. Attendees also had the chance to hear about the very latest issues affecting the public and private sectors at three dedicated Learning and Development Zones, each of which featured a series of procurement workshops.

They were also invited to take part in the first-ever Procurex Live Debate, with panellists including John F McClelland CBE, Chair of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council; Paul McNulty, Deputy Director, Scottish Procurement Directorate; Sylvia Gray, Sustainable Development Officer, East Dunbartonshire Council and Chair, Sustainable Scotland Network; and Eddie Regan, Senior PASS Consultant, BiP Solutions Ltd. This provided a series of interactive presentations and live debates offering added value to visitors with updates on the newest topics on the procurement agenda. Questions to the panel were submitted via the Procurex blog before the debate took place. Topics included sustainability, the efficiency agenda, collaboration and shared services, and commissioning.

Scottish Government Sixth National Public Procurement Conference

Also taking place on the first day of Procurex Scotland 2010 was the Scottish Government Sixth National Public Conference. Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing provided a keynote address in the morning, in place of John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth who had recently become a father.

Ms Sturgeon outlined the challenges currently facing the public sector before highlighting the ways in which Scotland can overcome them. She said: “We face a major challenge. It’s a challenge that I believe can only be overcome by allowing Scotland to take responsibility for its own economy, to set its own taxes, borrow and set fiscal policy, and reap the rewards of its vast renewable energy potential. Faster economic growth and not just cuts can be a route out of this situation.

“However, we are where we are and must deal with this the best that we can – and that requires a radical new approach to public spending. It requires a strong focus on delivering the things which really matter to people.

“The Scottish Government will present its budget proposals to Parliament in the next few weeks. We will do everything in our power to protect frontline services; to protect hard-working families and jobs across the country; to protect Scottish businesses and third sector organisations from the worst of the cuts. And in doing so, we believe very strongly, can learn a lot from the efforts already made to improve public procurement in Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon also spoke in depth about the establishment of the Procurement Information Hub. Almost all of the Scottish Government’s spending for the past five years has been classified by buying organisation, supplier and commodity. It is hoped that this shared service will give organisations across the public sector an unrivalled ability to monitor the effects of their spending, and to identify opportunities for greater efficiency.

Discussing supplier engagement, Ms Sturgeon said: “Good, thoughtful, procurement contributes to economic recovery – each year around half of all Scottish public sector spending goes directly to small and medium-sized enterprises. This should not be forgotten, no matter how tough times become.

“As we learned in the Spending Review, capital budgets across Scotland’s public sector will fall by a quarter in 2011 – and further in subsequent years. So it is absolutely essential and incumbent on both the public sector and the construction industry to work together to find new and creative ways of driving down costs.

“It is vital that we see this as more than just a back-office function – it should be a key strategic enabler of service delivery and design.

“We also need to recognise that if we are to achieve more for less, then there will be consequences for the private and third sectors. And so it is really important that we work in partnership with our suppliers.

“That’s why the Government asked Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, to chair a Supplier Engagement Working Group. Members of that group, drawn from across the public, private and third sectors, have done some sterling work – listening to, and acting upon, the concerns of those who supply the public sector. We are currently working to produce a standard Pre‑Qualification Questionnaire. That will be a significant step forward in addressing some of the concerns about bureaucracy and duplication of effort in bidding for public contracts.”

Alastair Merrill, Director of Procurement at the Scottish Government, emphasised that improved procurement is vital to meeting public challenges and achieving wider Scottish Government goals.

He said: “First-class professional procurement has never been as important in the delivery of public services as it is today.

“For the public sector customer, that means securing best value for money in the delivery of services in times of swingeing cuts. For the private sector supplier, it means trying to keep their business afloat in turbulent economic times.

“The last few weeks have seen some bleak messages about the future trends in public spending in Scotland and across the UK. But the public sector in Scotland will continue to spend billions of pounds on goods and services each year. Spent wisely, that has huge potential as an economic lever to support economic recovery and contribute to the Government’s National Purpose of sustainable economic growth.

“That concept is at the heart of the procurement reform programme in Scotland. Amidst the doom and gloom we should not lose sight of just how far we have come in Scotland over recent years in getting the public sector to work together on procurement reform. It gives real hope for the future.”

Mr Merrill also echoed Ms Sturgeon’s sentiments on supplier engagement. He added: “Public sector spend offers enormous potential for businesses. If you can innovate, develop and anticipate your clients’ changing needs, then you will be well placed to succeed. Through the Procurement Reform Programme, we shall do all we can to ensure that, big or small, you have easy, fair and straightforward access to contracting opportunities.

“The next few years are going to be all about spending our money wisely and efficiently, in a way which is good for the taxpayer, good for public service delivery, good for the economy, and ultimately good for Scotland.”

John Collington, Head of Procurement at the Efficiency and Reform Group at the Cabinet Office

John Collington, Head of Procurement at the Efficiency and Reform Group at the Cabinet Office, also stressed the importance of procurement during these challenging times. He said: “The clear message must be that good procurement is needed now, more so than at any time in the recent past.”

Mr Collington also spoke in depth about Sir Philip Green’s recent Efficiency Review, commending his work. He said: “He short-circuited a process that would normally take us three months or so; he completed it in four weeks. The results of the Green Review have been well publicised.

“Sir Philip was absolutely correct when he mentioned that variants in prices are quite simply unacceptable..This emphasises the opportunity that exists for Whitehall and government departments to get their act together.

“Some departments have done really well over the past three to four years. HMRC, DWP, the Home Office, the MOD and MOJ in my opinion could go head to head with any private sector organisation with the complexity of the expenditure being managed.

“I honestly believe that there has never been a better time for good procurement professionals to shine.”

John F McClelland CBE, Chair of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council, commended the progress of public sector procurement in Scotland. He said: “The Centres of Expertise, both at national and sector level, have created the framework I believe for the progress and the savings that have been made in recent times. Are they working perfectly? No, I think that would be an overstatement, but certainly they are well on the way to becoming not only permanent arrangements but arrangements that will continue to add value in the years to come.”

GO Awards Scotland 2010-11

Organisations across the country have been honoured for their outstanding achievements at the third annual Government Opportunities (GO) Excellence in Public Procurement Awards Scotland.

The GO Awards Scotland, organised by BiP Solutions Ltd, is the only awards ceremony dedicated to public procurement in the country. The winners were announced at a ceremony held at Glasgow’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on the evening of the first day of the Procurex Scotland exhibition. Hosting the event was GO Managing Editor Grahame Steed, with Alastair Merrill, Director of Procurement at the Scottish Government also addressing the audience. The after dinner speaker was Steve Nallon, impressionist and founding member of the Spitting Image team.

The final award of the night went to David Martin, Chief Executive at Renfrewshire Council, for his Outstanding Contribution to the Scottish public sector and tireless work in support of the procurement profession and community.

Accepting his award, Mr Martin said: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed and delighted to receive this award – I’ve never received anything like this in my life. But the reality of receiving an award like this is that actually it does not have an awful lot to do with me – my role in procurement, particularly with Scotland Excel, is down to a lot of people in this room, all the local authorities who are part of Scotland Excel. I am very honoured to receive this award; thank you all very much.”

The GO Awards Scotland 2010-11 winners were as follows:

GO Outstanding Contribution Award

Recipient – David Martin, Chief Executive, Renfrewshire Council

GO Sustainability / Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year Award

(Sponsored by DHL)

Winner – Argyll and Bute Council Procurement Team

Highly Commended – Procurement Scotland (National Electricity Contract)

GO Best Service Award (Sponsored by Tracker)

Winner – Pertemps / Central Government Centre of Procurement Expertise

Highly Commended – Strathclyde Tyres Ltd / Scotland Excel

GO / John F McClelland Collaborative Procurement Initiative of the Year Award (Sponsored by Delta)

Winner – Central Government Centre of Procurement Expertise

Highly Commended – National Procurement, NHS National Services Scotland (Strategic Sourcing)

Highly Commended – Tayside Procurement Consortium

GO Innovation or Initiative of the Year Award (Health Organisations) (Sponsored by eNgageSpace)

Winner – National Procurement, NHS National Services Scotland (Pharmacy Team)

GO Innovation or Initiative of the Year Award (Other Organisations) (Sponsored by eNgageSpace)

Winner – Central Government Centre of Procurement Expertise (Scottish Court Service)

Highly Commended – Graduate Trainee Programme, Scotland Excel

GO Best Supplier Engagement Initiative Award (Sponsored by CompeteFor)

Winner – Supplier Development Programme

Highly Commended – Catering and Cleaning Team, Scotland Excel

GO Team of the Year Award (Sponsored by BiP Solutions’ Procurement Advice and Support Service – PASS)

Winner – Procurement Development Team, Scottish Procurement Directorate

Highly Commended – Central Procurement Unit, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils

Highly Commended – Corporate Procurement Unit, Renfrewshire Council

The Winners and Highly Commended at the GO Awards Scotland 2011-11 with Grahame Steed

Mr Steed said: “This year’s GO Awards Scotland have underlined the quality of procurement staff across the country, and also highlighted that there are many suppliers prepared to go the extra mile in order to deliver quality services. Procurement will see some radical changes over the coming years, but on the evidence of these Awards, there are many individuals and organisations in Scotland with the right mindset and ambition to ensure a successful outcome.”

Procurex Scotland 2010, the Scottish Government Sixth National Public Procurement Conference, the Procurex Live Debate Arena and the GO Awards Scotland 2010-11 were organised by BiP Solutions Ltd, the Glasgow-based leading provider of innovative supply chain solutions for the procurement sector and publisher of Government Opportunities magazine.

Further information

For further information on Procurex Scotland 2010 and the Scottish Government Sixth National Public Procurement Conference, please visit:

For further information on the GO Awards Scotland 2010-11 and to view the images and video clips, please visit:

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