Friday, 29 November 2013

Procurement of taxis - get me out of here

What's the best way to procure a taxi service?

I suspect the custodians of the BBC are asking that question at the present. £10m a year spent on 350,000 journeys needs some sort of strategic approach. But users of the Beeb's Gateway Booking system seem to think the centralised purchasing system isn't delivering the best price. The examples cited suggest that buying locally, 'maverick buying', is approximately 50% cheaper.

Justifications used by the procurement department include: "we have to ensure that the companies used are both legally compliant and vetted, and this is done as part of the managed service provision ... we also require a 24/7 service which ensures broadcast criticality, full transaction reporting covering all journeys, ensuring we are compliant and can report our [tax reporting] obligations".

Virtually every organisation uses taxis and there are legal requirements for any taxi provider. It would be quite difficult in almost any part of the world I have been in not to find a 24/7 taxi service. I can understand that in certain situations there will need to be special provision for vulnerable passengers but why pay over the odds for all the other journeys?

There is always a dilemma when you try to take away flexibility and freedoms from staff, for example, their ability to hail a cab as an impulse buy or just when you need it as other options just won't work, so you can expect the odd example to be cited as part of the resistance to change, but why not just use corporate credit cards, claims expenses and, if it is abused, remove the freedom or tighten the controls.

I think there also needs to be some serious benchmarking discussions taking place with the providers. Something does not look right and the profession can avoid 'amateurs buy best' perceptions.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A tale of two sides of the same coin for the CLG procurement inquiry

On Tuesday I discussed the first of the two CLG local government procurement inquiry evidence sessions at Sheffield held on 18 November. I have been following the oral evidence sessions but the Committee will also take into consideration the written evidence submitted.

The earlier session on the 18 November appeared, to me, to be riddled with anecdotal evidence and unreliable answers to poorly framed questions. Nevertheless, it did suggest that there is an issue with stakeholders perception of what happens in local government procurement. It also suggested that the 8 Principles of Good Commissioning and the Compact are Whitehall theory as opposed to what the market appears to experience in Yorkshire and Humberside. Surprisingly the Committee don't probe these areas.

The second session provided an opportunity to hear from the other side of the coin, two councillors from Sheffield, Sheffield's Director of Commercial Services (also the regional lead on procurement) and  two representatives from YPO.

This session was unusual in that the evidence of councillors was taken. However, we only heard from two cabinet members and there weren't even any questions on how Overview & Scrutiny members might be engaged in strategic procurement.

We learnt that Sheffield, thankfully have moved from a position of building cost inflators into contracts. I have to say I have never before come across a system where contractors are guaranteed annual price increases.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A tale of two cities for CLG procurement inquiry: Sheffield & Sheffield

The CLG Inquiry into procurement rolled into Sheffield on the 18 November. This initially impressed me as it provided an opportunity to get out and feel the pulse on the ground. I say initially, as it transpired during the evidence that the Committee had pre-purchased tickets for the 3.47 train back to London and therefore couldn’t hear evidence after 3.25. Was such a guillotine a demonstration of good value for money?

Anyway, I would love to have shared the carriage with the Committee as they returned to London, and waited for the “What are we to make of all that?”

The objective of the sortie to Sheffield was “about trying to find out what is really happening on the ground, ..., what is going right, and what is going wrong”. What they heard were mixed messages about procurement in Sheffield; not local government in general, and not local government procurement in Sheffield but a ‘come all ye’ of anecdotes from questionable sources. For example:
  • Single sourcing is leading to an item which would otherwise have cost £10 costing £20, yet no evidence to substantiate that claim was provided;
  •  EU procurement rules require contracts over £250k to be advertised, yet my understanding is that the threshold for councils is actually £173,934;
  •  Contracts under £20k can be awarded on the basis of three phone calls;
  • “people, companies and organisations from outside the area seem to have a better opportunity of obtaining procurement contracts, mainly because they do not have any conflicts of interest or for some other reason.”

My suggestion to the Committee is, if you hear such heresy and factually flawed evidence, treat the informants other evidence with a large pinch of salt.

But the Committee are not blameless in this evidence session,

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Good news for buyers and workers on Bangladesh factory safety?

Last week I discussed the ongoing problems in Bangladesh clothing manufacturing and the reluctance to pay the agreed minimum wage - thankfully that moved on and agreement was reached. Although I can't help but feel that spirit of responsible manufacturing was somewhat lacking, after all the Prime Minister had to intervene.

Today we have learnt that three stakeholder groups are close to agreement on minimum safety standards (Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and National Tripartite Action Plan). This is potentially a good result for the European retailers involved but is it good enough?

The new standards will simplify inspections and therefore reduce costs to the buying organisations. They will also reduce inspection costs and disruption in the factories. Likewise the legally binding commitment of some of the buyers to maintain orders levels for the next two years and to share the cost of factory upgrades are positive steps for the workers.

However, if I was on the Board of one of the buying firms would I be relaxing? No, I don't think so. Consciences may be salved. New standards are good but can Board members of buying firms be sure they will be implemented, and that the standards are of sufficient level that the Board member would feel safe working with those as the minimum standard for the corporate HQ? No, this tentative agreement between such a varied group of stakeholders is likely to reflect consensus on the lowest common denominator as opposed to the best optimum solution for workers and buyers  - it is a step in the right direction but not the end of the journey,

CPOs have no cause to relax, they need to complete a risk assessment of the new regime and they need to made sure they are not abdicating responsibility. If the standards aren't high enough and there is another disaster, it won't be good enough the blame the standards - caveat emptor!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals - Book review

It's over 20 years since I l bought Steele, Murphy and Russill's handbook on negotiation, 'It's a Deal'. I found that book really helpful and practical. 20 years is a long time, so I didn't think I was being too extravagant investing in Jonathan O'Brien's 'Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals'. To be honest I needed no persuasion given that O'Brien's previous book, 'Category Management in Purchasing' is the definitive text on the subject.

'Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals' does not disappoint. What we have is a toolkit ready for use. The book effectively outlines the 'Red Sheet' method, complete with all the templates. Don't get me wrong though, this is not one of those clumsy, disjointed clutter of diagrams and models; no it is comprehensive and yet easy to read.

Working in a multi-cutural organisation I found the chapter on 'Negotiating across cultures' particularly good. While not the focus of the chapter, in many of today's businesses, with cross-functional teams drawn together across the globe, who have to negotiate as one-team, I thought the chapter made a useful contribution to effective team working.

I thought O'Brien was also excellent on 'power' and 'game theory'. While these chapters are written in the context of negotiation, I think they are useful reading, regardless of whether or not negotiation is in your mind. I suppose the same could be said for the chapter on body language which could provide many hours of enjoyment in 'people-watching' but just as easily a complex. O'Brien has a real skill in making concepts and theories pragmatic. Having said that, O'Brien has also creating a step-by-step guide to stacking the odds in your favour, right down to meeting and greeting!

Without doubt this is a book for every procurement practitioner.
Now just in case you want to get a copy of the book for yourself, at a decent price, order direct from Kogan using the code NPP and you'll save 25%!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Testing mini-break shopping and considering the options

The wonders of the web and absentmindedness of those who provide visibility of pricing on it never cease to amaze me.

I wanted to have a quick break linked with returning my son to his student flat in Edinburgh. A quick search found very attractive accommodation which suited us very well on Visit Scotland's website. Visit Scotland revealed a price of £x for four nights in a family room with our 16 year old daughter. However, trying to book I was redirected from Visit Scotland to the accommodation provider's own site. Unfortunately, that booking portal had the inconsistency of a maximum age of 15 for a child. Nevertheless, the websites both yielded the same price. I despatched a quick email to the accommodation to confirm availability but was offered a rate 24% higher than both Visit Scotland and the provider's own site.

Naturally, when I asked them to check their figures against both their own and Visit Scotland's website, the price was reduced.

There was always a slim chance I would be able to beat the web price through the email but why on earth would they price dearer?

Nevertheless, we had a great break but, much as I have a fondness for Scotland and my assumed historical roots, by way of price comparison, is there not something wrong when I can book a mini-break in Berlin, flying from Dublin and staying in a really good hotel, significantly cheaper than a car-ferry from Northern Ireland to a guest house in Scotland?

Friday, 15 November 2013

What will CLG Committee recommend on tackling fraud and corruption?

Last month we discussed the perceived rise in procurement fraud and corruption. On 11 November the Communities and Local Government Procurement Inquiry took evidence on tackling fraud and corruption. This was the third of oral evidence sessions, two of which I have already discussed. I expected the evidence to go some way to answering the following questions:
  1. Is fraud in local government procurement increasing or decreasing?
  2. Is corruption in local government procurement increasing or decreasing?
  3. How does UK local government procurement compare with the world best in tacking fraud and corruption? 
  4. What would an effective strategy for tackling fraud and corruption strategy in local government procurement look like?
  5. In what ways are councillors part of the problem and the solution?
Unfortunately those questions weren't asked. Why?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Do the incumbents of government contracts have an advantage?

On Tuesday I discussed the NAO Memorandum to Parliament on the management of strategic suppliers. I now turn to the parallel Memorandum on the role of major contractors in the delivery of public services. This is slightly different though in that it aims to stimulate public debate.

As usual, an excellent report from the NAO with plenty of useful insights for procurement practitioners.

I have little to contribute to that debate, however, I do think paragraph 1.9 in the report is worth discussion:
Incumbents can be seen by procurement and policy officials as he easier and softer option. Across the 15 applicable services we looked at as case studies for this memorandum , seven had been retendered at least once, with four of the most recent competitions being won by new providers.
I don't agree that procurement and policy officials would have a preference to the incumbent, and I doubt if the success in retendering demonstrates they do.

Incumbents have many first mover advantages and would be expected to do well in a retender as they should be able to identify scope for inefficiencies and have a greater understanding, possibly than the client, of the client's needs. The incumbent will also know where the emphasis can be placed in pricing strategy and where demand is lowest.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Retail clothing buyers to make a difference through contracts?

I think we all felt the stain of shame with the deaths of so many low paid garment factory workers in Dhaka some months ago. Even Michael Fallon, a government minister, summoned the great and the good of retail procurement to take corrective action.

It's not remotely clear what actually changed but here's a suggestion.

Given the UK debate on the cost of living and whether the living wage should be mandated in government contracts, that the average wage of a garment factory worker in Bangladesh (making UK High Street brands) is only $39 per month, that police have just used rubber bullets and teargas to quash a protest of 400,000 garment workers seeking a monthly wage of $100 (£62) which led to production stoppages in 200 factories, that the Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association have just rejected the recommendation of the Bangladesh Minimum Wage Board to pay a rate of $67 per month, why don't UK High Street retailers collectively place a contractual obligation on their suppliers to pay the minimum wage agreed by the Bangladesh Minimum Wage Board, backdated to its date of recommendation? Is that too much to demand? Too much of a Christmas present? Too reasonable? Too responsible?

P.S. 14 November 2013 following the intervention of the Bangladesh Prime Minister the Garment Manufacturers and Exporter Association have accepted the Board's recommendation. UK buyers should still enforce adherence through contracts though otherwise there's a risk that implementation will not take place. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Strategic supplier management in UK government

On Sunday I discussed Premier Foods novel approach to strategic suppliers. Yesterday, the National Audit Office published a Memorandum to Parliament on Managing Government Suppliers - an interesting publication for anyone concerned with strategic procurement approaches, regardless of the sector you work in.

Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, is clearly not happy with what the Memorandum has highlighted, nor that of its sister report on the role of major contractors. Both would have been of particular interest had their conclusions been fed into the PASC Inquiry on public procurement so it will be interesting to see 'what happens next?'

40 contractors have been identified as 'strategic' and collectively they consume 25% of the government's total spend. The suppliers are identified as strategic on the basis of extent and profile across central government and potential added value, but not necessarily spend or risk.

There still appears to be confusion on roles, responsibilities and accountabilities between spending departments and the Cabinet Office. That strikes me as something which needs to be addressed urgently as it could lead to suppliers playing one off against the other and causing gaps in strategic supplier management. At the present spending departments are the contracting bodies, yet both the departments and suppliers are subjected to Cabinet Office interference without accountability. Of course there's nothing unique about this and it's not a problem unique to the public sector either.

But then we also have the potential for dysfunctionalism with the Cabinet Office's focus on short-term savings while departments can be expected to have a wider view.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Premier Foods redefine strategic suppliers

How would you define a strategic supplier? To me it's a supplier who is core to business success, and one you really need to keep working with. You would also embed them in your procurement risk management and have effective contract management in place. You may not want the supplier to know they're strategic as that places them in a greater position of bargaining power.

That said, today's Mail on Sunday suggests that Premier Foods, the UK's largest food manufacturer, is adopting a more strategic approach to its suppliers. There will be a reduction in suppliers of approximately 50%. Surprisingly they have written to suppliers and given them the option of becoming a strategic supplier - very odd. This new approach to dealing with the market will introduce a formal supplier appraisal process. I don't know whether or not that means Premier Foods didn't previously have a supplier appraisal process in place but it's scary, given the attention to food supply chain failures over the last year, if this is a first for Premier Foods.

Anyway, introducing this supplier appraisal process will incur costs - strange that it won't lead to cost reductions - and to cover those costs suppliers are being asked to fork out £5,000 plus VAT.

It would be interesting to learn of Premier Foods procurement strategy:

  1. What will they do if some, or all, of the real strategic suppliers decide that they do not want to pay?
  2. How do they know that the supply base of 3,299 is too large and 1,650 is just right?
  3. Is this really the first time Premier Foods have introduced a supplier appraisal process?
  4. Have the profiled the supply risk?
  5. Does payment of £5,000 by a supplier mean they successfully navigate the supplier appraisal process, and, if they don't, will the supplier receive a refund?
  6. Will other forms of accreditation be acceptable to Premier Foods?
  7. What will the selection criteria be for 'preferred supplier' (Premier Foods strategic supplier) status? 
  8. If Premier Foods didn't have a supplier appraisal process in place previously, did they have contract and procurement risk management processes in place?
  9. Is the strategy to designate all suppliers as strategic?
  10. What do Premier Foods plan to do if their strategic suppliers start to expect faster payment terms or even payment on delivery?
  11. What is Premier Foods policy if their own customers impose an obligation to pay for supplier appraisal - will Premier Foods pay? 
In an environment where others are adopting supply chain financing this is certainly a novel strategy but is it a clever strategy?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The offence of Treating

Prior to hearing that the police are investigating a councillor who, 11 days before an election, bought tea and cake for residents of a care home, I hadn't heard of the offence, within electoral law, of 'Treating'.
 "A person is guilty of treating if either before, during or after an election they directly or indirectly give or provide any food, drink, entertainment or provision to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting. Treating requires a corrupt intent – it does not apply to ordinary hospitality."
Of course, what we can't tell is whether or not there was realistically any chance of the 'treating' having an impact, for example, if the councillor knew no postal votes were requested by the residents, whether postal votes had already been cast, whether the residents had access to transport to the Polling Station, or indeed whether they were even registered to vote? It is also interesting to note that it is not the residents who are deemed guilty of receiving tea and cake which could have 'corrupted' but the potential candidate who bought the cake.

But visualise if the 'other advantage' under the Bribery Act  was also deemed to include 'treating' to food, drink and entertainment within a certain period of a contract award? Of course it would have to exclude 'ordinary hospitality' too, but then who's to say what constitutes 'ordinary hospitality'.

As we start to approach the season of 'one-way giving', I wonder how much takes place without gaining some 'influence' over future procurement decisions, only if it is to ensure an RFP is received at some stage which wouldn't otherwise have been. Aren't 'treats' for procurement all really just 'tricks'?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thus spake PAC on Universal chaos and waste

"...the Department lacked an overarching business transformation strategy, and focused its effort on the programme's IT aspects. The failure to develop a comprehensive plan which will deliver these important changes has led to substantial nugatory expenditure which has yet to be finally determined and extensive delays in the implementation of the programme. 
 The Department accepts that timescales have slipped and that value has not been secured from the X million[s] invested so far. There has been a shocking absence of financial and other internal controls and we are not yet convinced that the Department has robust plans to overcome the problems that have impeded progress. Our recommendations are designed to help get the programme back on track. In particular the Department needs a robust plan on how to transform its business and what is required from the new IT systems it intends to use to support the transformation. If the Department is to secure the benefits it seeks, the new IT capabilities must enable more online operations, must address fraud risks, and result in a system capable of handling the real-world complexities of [key users] circumstances. The Department must be realistic and transparent about its expected costs and timescales, and the milestones against which we can hold it to account. We believe strongly that meeting any specific timetable from now on is less important than delivering the programme successfully."
It's highly likely that a high proportion of the millions invested will have to be written off. Without even getting beyond the summary, it isn't hard to ask "aren't these the basics of PRINCE2 and MSP?"  However, how many other projects could the same narrative apply to with a little 'cut and paste'?

But just in case you thought this was all the fault of IT strategists and policy wonks;  procurement were also named and shamed:

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Constructive comments when CLG Inquiry focus on construction procurement

After three sessions which left me quite despondent, the CLG Inquiry then focused on Construction. I have to say that the witnesses from Civil Engineering Contractors Association, KeepMoat, and Federation of Master Builders were quite impressive, constructive and, to me unbiased.

Sadly, there was a view that while there is some best practice, there is also some practice which is 20 years out of date. Now that should give both LGA and CIPS something to think about!

I also found it disappointing that the witnesses weren't probed on the lessons which could be learnt from the former Local Government Taskforce and Constructing Excellence initiatives - is it a sign of my age that I can recall the investment which was made in those improvement programmes? Anyway, unless we can learn from what worked and what didn't in the past, we are not only doing the previous investments a disservice but also at risk of trying to reinvent the wheel - the Committee really need to start probing these lessons.

So what did I think was helpful in their evidence?
  1. There needs to be an improvement in the writing of Briefs - that's a foundation for success;
  2. If councils provide better visibility and certainty of what is required then councils can expect better prices;
  3. The skills deficit could overcome if a  peripetic 'flying squad' were set up which travelled from project to project - I think this was envisaged as a more 'hands on' service than the type formerly provided by the 4Ps;
  4. PQQs were not seen as a 'bad thing' but there could be standardisation.
Then we had what has become a common question (so a warning for all those yet to give evidence): "Do you favor central government mandating greater centralistion of procurement in local authorities?" , my view was that the witnesses were not in favor, however, constructively, they felt there could be:
  • a mandate to provide a procurement pipeline;
  • a standardised PQQ;
  • a consistency in approach and standard models.
As I say I felt this was the best session so far.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Collaboration just doesn't sit well with strategic procurement functions in local government?

On the Monday the CLG Committee Inquiry into procurement shifted its focus to collaboration. Yet again the Committee struggled to prise information from the witnesses, for example, a simple and predictable question kicked it off "What proportion of councils are up to speed with best practice and, if not [up to speed], what are the barriers?" Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Messrs Taylor, Walsh or Robinson actually provided an answer!

However, we did learn from one of the witnesses a useful nugget "... the last national procurement strategy gave rise to a proliferation of a number of strategic procurement functions, so most councils have got a strategic function". Now that struck me as quite a good thing until Ed Walsh continued: "as a consequence they don't think with any form of collective mentality very easily, so looking at efficiencies and the benefits of economies of scale isn't something that comes easy to local authorities". Sorry, I just don't get that. I don't get it because councils have been collaborating on purchasing for over 50 years; I don't get it because organisations like NEPO and YPO and ESPO and Pro5 all exist. I don't get it because that same national procurement strategy which is praised, or was it criticised, for leading to the introduction of strategic procurement functions in councils, also had a complete section on collaboration!

Then we heard there's the potential for billions of pounds worth of savings in councils - I wonder what the LGA will make of that and what will be the strategy for achieving those savings if, on the strength of that evidence, the Committee advocated further cuts of billions of pounds to council budgets? But then again the Committee were told of evidence that suggests SCAPE in 1,200 local government procurement projects have delivered average savings of 14%.

Now that last savings claim gave Ian Taylor some cause for concern and he cited his own viewed, based on spend analysis, of the potential scope for collaboration, namely, 10-15% of spend was suitable for national buying, +/- 25% suitable for regional buying, and +/- 50% required local buying. I don't know how accurate those figures are but they do strike me as quite reasonable.

So what's the solution? Well the Committee could take on board one of the witnesses suggestions and put in place a centralised national buying organisation, or perhaps a regional structure - hold on though wasn't that what the RIEPs tried to do in partnership with Pro5? Or, as another of the witnesses suggested, the Committee could sort out the fear of failure which is pervasive in local government as a result of potential EU challenges.

My own suggestion is that the Committee will have enough on its plate trying to reconcile the first two days of oral evidence and how to stop local government procurement witnesses undermining anymore the good work of the sector.

I suspect I may return with more comments on the oral evidence but that seems like enough to think on for the time being.

Monday, 4 November 2013

NHS getting ready for another procurement scrub

I found the news in today's Financial Times that the NHS is in talks regarding the future of Commissioning Support Units an interesting brain teaser - what would I do?

The 19 CSUs were set up last year to support the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CSGs) in designing health services, providing back office computer services, payroll and procurement services. Now NHS England is considering the options for their future. Yet, it appears it's the CSUs who have to decide on their own future - how will that work and what freedom will they have to plough their own furrow?

Anyway, it does seem strange that there wasn't a clear strategy when CSUs were set up as opposed to 19 CSUs starting to deliver services and then debating their future so soon.

The usual outsourcing organisations could bid for all or part if the services, but is the current environment (e.g SFO now probing tagging contract) likely to be conducive to productive discussions when the government seem to lack confidence in so many of the providers and also the ability to successfully contract manage?

Alternatively, could the CSU services be provided through the contract let recently for government shared services? That may be difficult since it didn't appear to be in scope. One could of course ask why it hadn't been included in the scope?

Could the Crown Commercial Service provide the procurement aspects? It seems odd that the CCS would allow independence of such a vast amount of spend so early in its life, but then again why haven't they been providing the procurement services up until now, and if they have, have they failed to win over hearts and minds?

Should the NHS aim to let one job-lot contract for the whole of the 19 CSUs and, if so, how will they shape the contract? If NHS England went down that route, how would they avoid being held hostage to the provider? How would they gain the ownership of the CCGs?

Could each of the CSUs become a centre of excellence and each deliver a specialist shared service to the others, say one CSU leading on payroll and another on procurement?

If theoretically it was possible for CSUs to become centres of excellence, with the sole aim of supporting CCGs, why couldn't the CCGs 'cut out the middle men' and just agree among themselves which of the CCGs would become centres of excellence?

Would my position be different depending who I was advising? Well, I think to be honest, if I were in a CSU or one of CCGs, my inclination may well be to let all the others sign-up to a central deal and then use that as the starting position to get better deals from those who were unsuccessful in winning the main contract. When you compare the classic Prisoner's Dilemma scenario doesn't it sometimes make sense to actually avoid collaboration and standalone in procurement?

Well, it gave me something to muse on during this morning's flight in the absence of the facts - what would you recommend?

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The UNISON v NOA bout at CLG Committee Inquiry on procurement

On Friday I discussed the evidence of the local government panel witnesses to the Communities and Local Government Committee Inquiry into procurement. My main issue was the reliance was the absence historical evidence which should have been easy for LGA to access. My second criticism was the danger of hubris, ripping up the rule book and believing you alone have discovered the Holy Grail - passion in your work is great but it will not count for much when hindsight is what judges you, if not the legal profession.

So that was the first witness panel's evidence, the second panel gave evidence from UNISON and the National Outsourcing Association - as you would expect these two opponents traded unhelpful blows with each other on outsourcing.  It did strike me as strange though that the earlier session hadn't sought answers from the local government witnesses on outsourcing. Equally, why didn't the Committee follow through with UNISON and NOA on the local government witnesses evidence on social value - absolutely no triangulation of the evidence!

I cringed when the UNISON spokesperson referred to the DeAnne Julius report as "outdated and largely based on CCT" - now let me think, wasn't CCT led to rest nearly ten years prior to the report?

Friday, 1 November 2013

What drives local government procurement improvement?

I'm sure many of you have been eagerly awaiting the evidence sessions on local government procurement to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee. On Monday the Committee  had its first session of oral evidence which is now published.

I had previously highlighted what I felt may be worth exploring, but it doesn't really look as if either the  Committee or LGA have spent anytime learning from history and would rather listen to some suspect assertions.

A good starting point was the Committee trying to establish what drives procurement improvement? Sadly, the LGA spokesperson had to have that question broken down into bite-sized chunks before the Committee came to his rescue. Then we heard, what I consider to be absolute nonsense, that the electorate are driving change through the ballot box. Thankfully the Committee had enough sense to question that assertion too. Having interviewed hundreds of local government procurement stakeholders this was the first time I have ever heard anyone suggest there is something in a manifesto about local government procurement. It's all about campaigns and the X factor in one council it seems.

We heard that the LGA have been working on a national procurement strategy since 2006 - why so little progress? Well perhaps, and I quote, "I am not sure a national framework is terribly helpful". We may be in a better position to judge whether a national procurement strategy would be helpful if they considered the evidence of the impact of the first NPS - there were annual impact assessments completed, why weren't they drawn upon? There were also some academic papers and from memory a ODPM financed impact assessment.