Why Unleashing the Power of Public Procurement is the Biggest Idea Around


Ever been at the start of something which is going to change things forever?

Ever known that what you’re involved in has the potential to make a great positive impact on people’s lives?

Ever felt frustrated that the pace of change just isn’t quick enough?

We’re at a turning point in public procurement across the world. It’s like the build up of water behind a hydro electric generating dam; massive potential to create positive energy if only someone would open the gates.

Public procurement spend accounts for €420bn in Europe alone. World wide the value of that spend is positively mind blowing. Every penny spent through public procurement has the power to make a positive difference to people’s lives and the world in which we’re living but we’re not using that power to it’s full potential….yet.

The signs are clear public procurement can make a massive difference.

By starting with a transparent and accountable procurement process like they are doing in Kyrgyzstan we can guarantee that every penny of tax-payers money is spent on delivering public services.

No more lining of pockets or money we can’t account for. Now that’s a boost to resources on it’s own and we haven’t even let a contract!

By focusing on outcomes and developing great output specifications like they’re starting to do in Zimbabwe and have done to great effect in Barcelona and Philadelphia we can deploy those public resources in a way that really makes a difference.

No more putting up with services because they’ve always been like that; we can put users at the heart of defining what they need and then work with our suppliers to deliver it.

By promoting collaboration like they’re doing in health services in Queensland or through the quirkily named GWACs used in the US, we can wield our buyer power and get great prices and budget savings in the process.

Collaboration in Scottish Local Government alone has saved in excess of £18m, how much more could be saved?

By taking positive action we can promote green environmental practice in our supply chains.

Whether it’s local government using timber from a sustainable source like the WWF Gold award-winning Falkirk and Fife Councils or the United Nations procuring solar powered telecommunications for their mission Haiti we can use the power of public procurement to take positive planet saving action.

By making our processes clear and accessible we can encourage local and smaller businesses to play their part in the delivery of public contracts. Across the world people in public procurement are working hard to make this happen. In Saskatchewan they’re working hard to improve SME access to contracts whilst in the Philippines they are introducing ways to buy local.

By focusing on the added value that public contracts can bring we can include community benefit clauses that bring added value to the procurement process.

Clauses ranging from apprenticeships to support for the third sector or community funding pots are being included in contracts particularly in the UK. In the last Commonwealth Games over 3,600 apprenticeships were created through contracts made by public procurement in Glasgow.

And finally by using clauses within public contracts we can tackle some of the wicked issues like modern slavery, fair trade and fair wages.

EU public procurement directives now make it easier to by fair and in Brazil they’ve published a “dirty list” to name and shame companies who benefit from slave labour.

So with all that persuasive evidence that public procurement can be a positive force for good what do we need to unleash that massive power?

How do we unleash this massive power?

We need PEOPLE in public procurement who have the skills deliver the great outcomes we can and must deliver. Able procurement practitioners who have the ability to engage effectively with stakeholders, cover a wide range of categories and think outside the box to come up with the new and innovative solutions are exactly we need. Time for public procurement to be the destination of choice for the very best practitioners we have.

We need government POLICIES to provide the framework in which public procurement can thrive. Let’s take the best bits of procurement directives, national legislation and regulations and promote their adoption worldwide.

It’s time to throw off the shackles of bureaucracy and accusations of red tape.

We need a PROFESSION that values public procurement alongside not behind commercial practice. Taking our lead from the Institute, it’s time for the CIPS community to publicise, promote and proliferate examples of good public procurement.

Time for examples of success to be at the forefront in people’s minds instead of instances of when public contracts go bad.

The time to unleash the power of public procurement has arrived. It’s time to open the floodgates and let that power flow through.

The greatest danger for public procurement is not that we have too many big ideas and aim too high, it’s that we aim too low and achieve it.