Friday, 20 November 2020

NAO - PPE Procurement: the threat for Public Procurement

There are many things going on at the moment, and so the procurement of PPE is not making as much of a splash as it should.  Though there is still a lot of coverage in the media;



even Dentistry online!

And this should be a big issue.  At a time of national emergency procurement has to move fast, and decisions have to be made quickly.  But this is also the time when unscrupulous suppliers (and even conmen) can take advantage of the situation for gain.  So we have to temper the need for results with a little prudence.

The idea of having "fast track" suppliers is no doubt meant with the best intentions by senior figures in the government, who want to speed up the process - but this approach is fraught with opportunities for graft, corruption and fraud.  None of which have necessarily taken place, but it is a vulnerability.  

If you don't lock your car doors but it isn't stolen, that is not an indication that you were doing the right thing.  It means you got a way with it.  Time will tell if that is the case for PPE procurement.

What IS clear though is that public confidence in public procurement has been further eroded by the failure to deliver, the failure to ensure value for money and the perception of contracts for "mates".  The government should act quickly to restore its reputation.

Sad to say, I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Public Procurement: Award of contracts by UK government

 You might be aware that there is growing concern about the award of contracts by the UK government during the Covid-19 pandemic without going through the usual tender processes.

This is of great concern, because of course the usual processes (mostly tenders) are there to ensure that our taxpayers money is spent in ways that are both effective and fair.  You can argue about the effectiveness, but the "fairness" should not be an issue.

The government's argument is of course that the current crisis requires a different approach.  Research by They Buy For You suggests that the UK government is taking a different line to other European countries who have mostly followed the existing procedures.  In the UK we have directly awarded 99%, resulting in the UK accounting for more than half of the Covid-19 direct awards across Europe.

Now taking such a different approach (one that risks fairness, openness and transparency) can be justified if it produces significantly better results.  

Your opinion may differ, but I don't see our UK Covid-19 response as significantly better than the rest of Europe.

What we have done is justified the award of large contracts (£100m upwards) to people known to the government without a competitive process.  I am sure that the government will say that the contracts went to good people.  But of course they cannot prove that they went to the best people.  Therefore the country risks being damaged by award of contracts on the basis of contacts and personal relationships rather than objective criteria.  No matter the intentions, this is how corruption, fraud and cronyism get into public sector procurement.

Pedro Telles points out that the Public Accounts Committee has been very critical of the government's approach.  

In a time of national crisis we deserve better than this.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

IChemE - What Engineers need to know about Contracts 23/24 November 2020


We are now confirmed to go ahead with the scheduled course in November.  This is 2 half days were we try to cover the content we do in 2 full days face to face.  We run it as 2 separate dates because we think that attention spans shrink a bit when online.  I know mine does.

Full details from IChemE here.

We are also getting an increasing number of requests to run this in-house, and of course we are able to do that (online at the moment, and face to face in future). This can be the full 2 day course or the 2 half days (including both on a single day, but that is not our preference.

BTW, there should be a short article from me in the Chemical Engineer soon (probably next year now) explaining why Engineers need to understand Contracts.