Mixing Politics & Procurement.
The need for administrations to act at pace is often at odds with the processes and procedures needed for good procurement.
If an administration wants to send a man to the moon, vaccinate a population or just build a bridge across a river, they don’t want to have to draft a specification, engage the market, redraft the speculation and then go to tender; meaning they have to wait a year before the contract starts. That makes them look weak.
If a procurement team wants to do these things, they first want to understand what has to be bought, where the likely suppliers are, how to negotiate the best price and what problems might dog any contract before they even draft a specification. Buying in a rush, not knowing what might happen makes them look inept.
Creating synergy between politics and process is about building a shared understanding of what can be done and using the mechanisms available to buyers in the right way at the right time.
The scandals around Covid-19 procurements lifted the lid on what can happen when politics trumps process. Awarding contracts without competition, high fees for favoured contractors, and millions spent on equipment that doesn’t manifest, all dampen public confidence that public authorities can achieve value for taxpayer funds and have good commercial judgement.
At the same time, buyers need to be more fleet of foot, more sympathetic to their colleague’s needs, and better at using different instruments available to them, whether that’s innovation challenges, dynamic procurement systems or simply creating smaller contracts to encourage competition.
Buyers still need to push back on the idea that someone can present them with a supplier and say “you need to sign a contract with this person”, but buyers still have work to do if they are to rid themselves of the ‘business prevention unit’ moniker.-end.
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