Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The UK Public Procurement Opportunity

About a year ago the government came up with some large numbers about the potential savings for councils by improved procurement.  The number was widely publicised as over £400 off each council tax bill, about £10bn which is about 20% of UK local authority spend.

These claims have been investigated by Private Eye, and are skewered by Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science blog and column on the Guardian (last year), and by the Local Government Chronicle here yesterday.

The initial piece of research by Opera Solutions was based on just 3 categories at 3 councils, and really is nothing more than a promotional piece pointing out that savings can be possible.  The 20% headline figure was derived from mobile phone rates (and the other 2 categories were only 10% savings).

Now we are probably going to get the political process here saying some combination of;
- the research was valid (no it's not)
- it was only presented as indicative (no it wasn't)
- it is a long time ago and things have moved on (well yes and no).
- this is political point scoring (well, yes but on both sides)
- let's forget about it.

It is not the only set of government promoted data that is under scrutiny  - see Peter Smith of Spend Matters, on the role of SMEs in supplying government.

My point in dragging these things up from other blogs is that this is important.  There are clearly savings to be made in local authority procurement, but they are unlikely to be as easy to realise as is being suggested.  Likewise there are benefits from engaging SMEs in public sector procurement processes, but they take time to delivery value. 

The first victim of the political process (from either side) is truth, in the form of accurate data.  But without accurate data we cannot make good procurement decisions and set appropriate strategies.  I hope (probably in vain) that all sides will recognise the need for good, clear, accurate data about public procurment.  It will take time and money to gather, but it should pay back the costs many times over in savings.  Just not £10 bn worth.  Probably.  I don't know.  I'd have to look at the data.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Principles and Practice for Public Procurement

CIPS and NIGP have combined to come up with  a set of Principles and Practices for Public Procurement, which should be applicable on a global basis.  They have worked with a range of practitioners (not including me) to develop them, including people from outside North America and the UK.  They are available for free here