However, after a remarkably short stay, say ten weeks, Harmeston and the Co-op parted company. Harmeston decided to pursue a claim of £5.2m for unfair dismissal (I've no idea how that figure was calculated and some would say it was an unachievable negotiating position). Whether intended or not, Harmeston brought the spotlight on herself through the decision to go to the tribunal. You can read the Co-operatives version of the Tribunal here. Now after almost two months of waiting for an answer, it is reported she has failed in her claim against the Co-op for unfair dismissal.
I am not competent to comment on the legal aspects, and feel a slight discomfort intruding on private grief, but I can have an opinion on some of the alleged practice reported in press - let's remember this blogpost is based on reported evidence and some of the evidence was contested. Much of evidence struck me as irrelevant to the unfair dismissal case but relevant to the profession and those who would hope to bring about procurement change - it's those areas I discuss below.
We are told Harmeston believed she had uncovered a lack of procurement policy compliance; 70% of the budget. Understanding the extent of non-complaint spend is certainly a good starting position for improvement - understanding 'why' and what to do about it would be an even better position. The CEO though claimed the issues raised by Kath were already known about and Kath had previously been briefed on them. It is always dangerous to claim the glory for uncovering something when others say you didn't - that applies just as much to claiming savings in isolation of the budget-holder's contribution.
Nevertheless, when the Co-op's head of group risk probed Kath, he concluded that the CPO didn't know the details of the procurement policy. Now given that she was only in post ten weeks, it could be argued that was understandable. What strikes me as unacceptable though was his assertion:
Anyway, that was made worse by, Paula Keegan, the former group chief strategy officer's opinion that Harmeston knowingly chose to break the Co-op's procurement policy herself.
I cannot think of any situation when procurement governance should not be a primary concern when seeking to bring about procurement change, indeed even setting the example of compliance.
Perhaps you can already sense the loneliness of the CPO's journey. To me, when you want to bring about procurement change you also need a coalition of allies - the CEO, head of group risk and group chief strategy officer would be useful allies but Kath failed to gain their ownership.