Tag Archives: public procurement

The Big Squeeze in Public Procurement

As budgets continue to shrink, how can professionals working in public procurement do more with less?

We live in a world of apparent contradictions. The amount of money being spent by global governments is rising year on year. And yet, in the majority of these countries, public sector institutions are seeing budgets shrink at the same time.

Governments are increasing spending in order to continue to provide vital services to the public. In the UK, public spending reached £761.9 billion in 2016. This is forecast to rise again in 2017, with total UK public spending is expected to be £784.1 billion.

However, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when assessing these figures. The average age of the population is on the rise. Health services are dealing with a rise in chronic diseases as a result of lifestyle choices. Investment is not only being put into social care, but also into improving the lives of the entire population. All this means that any increase in spending is swallowed up as quickly as it is released.

In addition, slow global growth means that Governments have to be aware of future spending too. What this means, ultimately, is that spending at a local level is reduced. So what does this mean for public sector procurement?

More for Less

In Scotland, funding for Councils from the Scottish Government has decreased by an estimated £180 million for 2017-18. Some of this will be offset by rising Council Tax across the country, but many Councils and Local Authorities will still be looking to make major savings.

Maintaining, and improving, public services is only the start. The public sector in a situation where they not only have to achieve more with less, but they also have to invest wisely to help future savings targets.

Technology is just one area where this can be achieved. Many cities are investing heavily in technology that will align with existing infrastructure. Following in the footsteps of pioneering cities like Barcelona and Stockholm, a number of UK cities are moving to become ‘Smart Cities’.

Intelligent Street Lighting, sensors measuring urban data including city centre footfall, air quality, and new applications for refuse collection and public parking, are just a few examples of how technology helps to build a smart city.

These technologies have a dual-benefit for Local Authorities, and other businesses in cities. Data collected can be used to drive savings initiatives, while at the same time helping to improve the quality of life for residents.

Public Procurement’s Three Cs

What does this mean for procurement? The profession will be at the forefront when it comes to savings initiatives, and will play a vital, and ever-increasing, role in these projects. But at the same time, procurement still needs to prove its worth to, and make these savings stick.

If you’re looking for somewhere to get started, or to drive continuous improvement, here are three Cs that are applicable no matter your organisation, industry, or category (or even sector).

  1. Challenge

The best saving procurement can make is by not spending money in the first place. And the best time to do this is at the very beginning of a project. By challenging requests, procurement can begin to weed out wants from needs.

Does the organisation actually need this? Does it really need the 24-carat, diamond encrusted version, when an off-the-shelf one will do just fine? Is there an alternative solution to the question that could cost less while doing the same job?

Get your client, end customer, and specification writers to really think through their requirements. Once you’ve done that, you can move on to the next C.

  1. Collaborate

Collaboration should be both an internal and external activity. Procurement should be involved from the start of the project, and work closely with other departments to get the best for the organisation.

The public sector can also collaborate more too. Instead of all setting up individual projects for the same thing, why not share what’s been done in the past? Frameworks, Dynamic Purchasing Systems, and collaborative purchasing can help save time, resources, and money.

It’s also time to be working more collaboratively with our suppliers. Procurement needs to focus, where appropriate, on building long-term relationships. By building these relationships, suppliers will feel more open to collaboration, and potentially start bringing innovative solutions to the table.

And the other thing collaboration is going to help is with the final C.

  1. Cost

As in total cost, lifecycle cost, or Total Cost of Ownership. It’s critical to long-term savings ambitions that the total cost of goods or services is understood. Depreciation, residual value, maintenance and disposal costs all need to be taken into account before any decisions are made.

Procurement should also be focusing more on the cost element with suppliers too. Profit margin is not necessarily the best place to start looking for savings. Rather than creating the perception of going after profit, switching the focus to cost can provide more opportunities for discussion and even innovation.

Getting Started

While these are very good areas to start in, they are just the start of a larger exercise. However, they will help to provide the foundation for best practice, and to change the way projects are put in place across the organisation.

President Trump and Procurement – The Impact

As the weeks unfold, we begin to get a better understanding of what impact a Trump Presidency will have on procurement.

trump impact procurement

There is, of course, no need to introduce the events of Tuesday 8th of November 2016 to readers. On that day, Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to be elected as the next President of the USA.

The implications for the procurement industry may at times be daunting and hard to anticipate. However this article should shed some broad light on some of the possible implications. Two of the main implications are infrastructure spending and trade deals.

In terms of Trump’s policy platform, detail is so often conspicuous by its absence. In his “Contract with the American Voter” however, he has outlined extensive policy proposals for his first 100 days as President.

Impact on Infrastructure

The first likely impact is infrastructure, which is one key tenet of this “contract”. Despite having far-right positions on many areas, Trump does have more centrist positions on some areas, especially infrastructure investment.

This may well boost the economy, albeit fuelled by debt, unless highly ambitious funding mechanisms come to fruition. He has vowed to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over ten years. This would of course require huge procurement expertise for large road and bridge building and various other industries. We will have to wait and see what happens with building walls, however!

But the real impact of this expansive infrastructure spending would not be the huge procurement processes required, but more the method through which it may be achieved.

Whilst it is far from certain how the incoming administration could fund such a project, while providing perhaps the biggest ever tax cut, he would also need Congressional approval.

Public-Private Partnership Proposals

The infrastructure is not proposed as fully funded by the federal government, but largely through public-private partnerships (PPPs). If this sets a trend, the implications for funding of public services in the USA and other countries, especially developed market economies such as Western Europe, could be significant.

PPPs such as this have been generally successful in some cases and rampant failures in others. In the UK’s National Health Service for example, they have been a highly controversial mechanism. Many argue PPPs have fostered long-term financing issues, and harmed patient care and outcomes.

Further, many argue that the privatisation that PPPs cause brings about fundamental change to the relationship between the state and citizens. With this, public services are delivered based on promises of profit. For infrastructure investment to go ahead, it has to be based not on the gain for society, economy or environment, but where a surplus can be extracted.

Impact on Global Trade

The second main impact will be Trump’s influence on global trade, which is a driver of prosperity worldwide, alongside his threats of protectionism. Since the global financial crisis, cross-border trade has stagnated. This has been the longest period of stagnation for over 70 years.

Trump has an overtly protectionist stance. He has already threatened to hike tariffs on imports from China and Mexico, as well as pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.

In broad economic terms, this would increase living costs for domestic citizens. It would, without any doubt, be reciprocated by other countries such as China (as early noise coming from Beijing confirms). It would also affect jobs in export industries in the USA and the USA’s economy as a whole.

For public procurement in the USA however, this could also be significant. American public services could be restricted from products they currently source cheaply from abroad.

The increased costs from domestic purchases have to be made up from somewhere, such as savings in other areas, purchasing lower quality goods or increasing costs for users of public services.

The same could be true in Canada and Mexico. If the USA pulls out of NAFTA and applies tariffs on Mexican and Canadian goods, reciprocal protectionism would restrict Canadian and Mexican access to high-quality goods and services sourced from the USA.

Global Impact

Outside North America, the implications could also be significant for procurement professionals around the world. President Obama has been pushing hard to ratify the world’s largest ever free trade agreement – the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).

This opens procurement markets, and removes tariffs, between 12 countries, including Australia, Japan and Vietnam. Trump has confirmed he will cancel this deal on his first day in office. This will deny public procurement across all participating countries the opportunity to increase procurement competitiveness and reduce sourcing costs. It’s also likely to decrease the choice of the goods and services available for purchase.

The same is true with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The trading impact of TTIP, between the USA and European Union, would have been huge. Whilst talks reached an impasse in 2016 when negotiating procurement market access, Trump is likely to be the final nail in the coffin.

TTIP again would have been a boon to procurement teams in all countries, with increases in competition and decreases in price for all countries. This would have provided European contracting authorities with tariff-free access to high-quality American goods and services and vice versa.

Despite the threats of uncontrolled climate change and protectionism, the impacts of a Trump presidency are really yet to be known. Yes, Trump may have secured his “contract” with the American voter. But the contract will be re-tendered in under four years. The outcome of that really is unknown.

Creating Community Empowerment With Football

How taking an interest in football can help put community empowerment at the heart of public procurement.

Community Empowerment

Lots of public bodies at national, regional and local level like to talk about community empowerment don’t they? That’s because promoting community empowerment is perhaps the holy grail of participatory democracy.

Many politicians and policy makers believe that getting communities more involved in what public money should be spent on and, more importantly, why, will lead to improved outcomes for people and their communities. And there’s plenty of evidence to back this up.

For procurement, tasked with delivering more for less, increasing community empowerment could also mean that the ever-decreasing pot of cash available to spend on public services could actually be deployed in a much more effective way.

Empowerment and Football?

So what we can we do in procurement?  How could we promote community empowerment and what benefits could that bring?  When I was searching Google for examples, strange connections started to occur.  Wherever I found a good example of procurement and community engagement, great football, or soccer to those of you on the other side of the pond, was also evident too. You don’t believe me? Well read on…

Let’s start in the home of sexy football, Brazil.  They’ve been doing a thing called Participatory Budgeting there for a number of years, and it’s a great way to do community empowerment at the front end of the procurement process. Participatory Budgeting in Brazil is an approach which gives local people a direct say in how, and where, public funds can be used to address local requirements.

It started in a place called Porto Alegre in southern Brazil over a decade ago. The first phase of participatory budgeting was to get people together to prioritise how money should be spent, and where investment should go. Should it be parks or water supply, or schools or roads? People at the grass roots of the community were asked to come together in neighbourhood assemblies, and make those decisions.

As the process matured people were able to take decisions at an increasing lower level.  From choices between thematic areas, to choices between services within a theme, to choices about what the specification for that service should be.

So people at the front end determining priorities. Something perhaps we already get involved in from a procurement point of view through User Intelligence Groups, particularly when we have service users involved in that process.

Community Empowerment

What they’ve done in Brazil is a start, but how could we shift control even more directly to people’s hands and empower communities through procurement?

To have a look at how this might be done I moved on to another football hotspot – Spain. I zoomed in on a city which features on a daily basis in my house, and probably every household that has football crazy kids in their midst. Now the football club might be having a great season, but the real reason why Barcelona is a great place isn’t the sublime football of Messrs Neymar, Messi and Suarez.

It’s their approach to procurement using open problems that was the real wow factor for me. Instead of coming up with a specification for a service, they’ve specified the problem, and then gone to the market and asked suppliers to solve it.

They asked people from geographic communities, or communities of interest, to identify what needs they have, and then turned it over to the world’s entrepreneurs to solve them.

Barcelona’s approach was successful. They had 50,000 views of their contract notices, and ultimately let six contracts in this way for issues ranging from tackling bike theft, to systems to tackle social isolation, and empowering local retailers using technology. The thing to understand here, is that communities don’t always know the answer to what they need at the outset – they just know they have a problem.

This method of empowering them to say what they want to change and then enabling them to choose what the answer should be from a range of options, some of which they might not even have considered, is very powerful and procurement is right at the heart of it.

Going Remote and Rural

But is it just in big cities and the regions where these community empowerment approaches might work? Could we use them in remote and rural locations?

My final destination is in one of the great footballing heartlands (well we like to think so anyway!) – Scotland, and my own organisation in the Outer Hebrides.

We wanted to improve community empowerment and link it to a procurement process and so we gave a combination of Brazil and Barcelona a try.  We used a bus service contract but flipped the requirement on its head so we went out to the market to seek travel solutions for people without cars – the problem we sought to solve.

We engaged with the community to identify needs, drive specification development and score the tenders. We embedded community engagement the length and breadth of the procurement process.

To make this happen we assembled our squad of players. The Transport Team in defence, yearning to retain the old ways of doing things, community workers in midfield being creative with their consultation techniques, corporate policy playing in goal making sure we didn’t make any strategic blunders, and finally our strike force, the procurement team, taking all the needs, creativity and service requirements, and converting this into the winning goal by putting a great procurement process and contract in place.

With a 5 per cent budget saving delivered over the lifetime of the contract we clinched the trophy with no need for extra time.

Footballing metaphors aside, promoting community empowerment as part of the way we do things gives those of us in public procurement a real opportunity to shine.

It’s a chance to showcase our talent – getting the right people to have the right input into the procurement process at the right time.

It’s a chance for us to stretch ourselves and learn new techniques. To work with different types of people, using different engagement techniques, at different points in the procurement process.

And it’s the chance to deliver more for less, to provide real answers to the challenges of austerity, and to score that winning goal!

Curbing Public Procurement Fraud in Africa

Are we making any progress curbing public procurement fraud in Africa?  The consensus seems to be very little, although there are pockets of not quite excellence, but at least some promise.

Public Procurement Fraud

The Anti-corruption Agencies

10 years ago the World Bank reviewed the activities of anti-corruption agencies active in Africa and came to the conclusion that they were not particularly effective, despite some significant funding.  They concluded that African governments, in general:

  • lack the know-how or the political will to control corruption and procurement fraud
  • want just to be seen to be taking some action, however ineffectual it is in practice

In reality, if a study was undertaken today, the results would be about the same. This is despite efforts by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Transparency International (TI) and Corruption Watch and others.

TI’s arm in Ghana, GII, says that their “vision is to make Ghana a corruption-free country in all spheres of human endeavour, where people and institutions act with integrity, accountability and transparency”.  Worthy sentiments, but is it just rhetoric?

The OECD tells us that “public procurement remains the government activity most vulnerable to waste, fraud and corruption due to the size of the financial flows involved”.  On average, 12-15 per cent of a country’s GDP is spent on public procurement. Some of this is wasted. However, there are no reliable statistics of how much money is lost to procurement fraud and corruption across Africa, as much of it goes unreported.

Kenya’s Procurement Woes

Despite an active but bureaucratic watchdog in Kenya: The Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA), public procurement fraud and collusion in tenders is alive and well, and some say endemic. Many of the reported high value failures are in transport and logistics including railways and ports, and particularly in education.

PPOA has as its tag line “transforming procurement”. It has a laundry list of tender appeals awaiting attention and looks like it is losing the battle. Ask Haier Electrical or Hewlett Packard who together won a case against the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in 2014 involving a project of more than US$400 million.

PwC says in a newly published report that one in every three Kenyan business leaders reported procurement-related fraud in the past two years, making it the most common type of economic crime in the country. The report faults Kenya’s procurement processes as not being robust enough to guarantee integrity at all levels.

The Politics of Preference – Women, Youth and Local Sourcing 

There is growing disquiet about preferential procurement rules and guidelines like those legislated in countries such as Nigeria.  The Nigerian government wants to help the local economy by developing emerging businesses, but new legislation on local sourcing may have the opposite effect if it is prescriptive.  Will “Made in Nigeria” allow suppliers to charge more for inferior products and services and will government buyers somehow be tempted to offer guarantees – for a fee or other benefit?

Initiatives being taken to tackle the scourge

The World Bank’s new procurement framework will allow it to better respond to the needs of client countries in Africa, while preserving robust procurement standards throughout Bank-supported projects. Since they have a portfolio of about US$42 billion in over 1,800 projects in 172 countries, this is significant.

There’s also some good news coming out of South Africa.  The Chief Procurement Officer, Kenneth Brown, has kept a low profile. Behind the scenes, his team are quietly reviewing all tenders over R10m for compliance to the rules and are looking for opportunities for cost savings.

On an expenditure of R500 billion annually, its target of savings of R25 billion looks achievable.

The State’s fragmented spending practices are now being centralised to reduce waste and get more leverage through technology. They have set their sights on some key categories: travel at R10 billion per annum, ICT, construction and leases.

The new online eTenders portal launches in April 2016 with a modest maintenance cost of just R16,000 a month. It introduces much needed transparency and will save a staggering R400 million a year that the government spends on advertising the tenders in newspapers.

Big Ideas in UK & Public Procurement

Social value and collaboration – just the tip of the iceberg for the professionals in UK and public procurement.

Public Procurement

Ahead of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 this Thursday, we are taking a look at the key issues facing procurement in the coming years. We have asked experts and influencers in our community to share their Big Ideas on the themes we will be discussing on the day.

The concept of social value is one that has gained more traction, driven by public procurement professionals across the world. It also links heavily into the idea that procurement as a whole needs to collaborate and work together, something that we’ll also be discussing at Big Ideas.

We spoke to some of our UK-based professionals in the Procurious community to understand the big ideas in the UK and public procurement.

Helen Mackenzie, Head of Procurement, Scottish Local Government

Power Profiles - Helen MackenzieAs those of us working in or with public bodies across the world move forward through our journey of procurement reform, our challenge is now shifting from one where tackling corruption, compliance and procedures are key to one where we’re must add value whenever we can.

At the front end of the process, there’s been some innovative work looking at commissioning services using open problems. Barcelona and Stockholm have had some great results by shifting from specifying the service they wanted, to specifying the problem they wanted to solve.

Adding social value to public procurement contracts continues to be expected by policy makers. In Scotland, we’re including requirements to ensure fair work practices, including the payment of the living wage, and community benefit clauses, which have been used to create added value. For instance 1,000s of apprenticeships have been created as part of our contracts.

Ensuring our communities are involved at the heart of our procurement processes is perhaps the holy grail of public procurement. It’s something which isn’t easy to do, it’s going to require us to stretch our stakeholder engagement skills. The prize will be contracts which target resources where they are needed, people who feel public spending is actually being targeted at them and outcomes which will deliver real improvements in people’s lives.

If we’re successful in shifting our focus away from what we’ve always bought, to what we need to solve with community engagement and social value at the heart of what we do, we’ll certainly secure great contracts and we’ll make the savings we need to deliver in the process.

Jane Lynch, Lecturer, Cardiff Business School

Jane LynchLeading organisations today redesign processes for improving customer experience. This, they argue, leads to more effective business operations.

However, this may lead to initial process inefficiencies (i.e. higher process costs). Who and what should drive process improvement for our business? Is it the supply chain, the organisation’s strategy or is it all about the customer?

Chris Cliffe, Director, CJC Procurement Ltd

Power Profiles - Chris CliffeBig Ideas and innovation in procurement is certainly needed. However, not at the expense of the basics.

Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and apply it to procurement. As a profession, and as individual professionals, we cannot ‘self-actualise’ until we have satisfied the more fundamental needs of our roles. 

As a professional collective, we need to get a lot better at collaborating as individuals, and as a profession, to ensure that the ‘physiological’ and ‘safety’ needs are met, which in our scenario is the basics such as spend analysis, market knowledge, proficiency at transacting procurement processes (particularly the regulated public sector processes).

With that foundation satisfied, we can move on to the ‘Love & Belonging’ and ‘Esteem’ needs, which for us is where many of us still struggle. Being invited to the top table at our organisations as true business partners remains a consistent challenge. 

At this level, we need to be more proactive in demonstrating and promoting contract management and supplier relationship management achievements, not just (but also) procurement process cost savings and force our way in to the strategic conversations. 

From this point we can dream of ‘self-actualisation’.  All contract spend is compliant and being managed well.  Our deep market knowledge is maintained, valued and collaborated on with peers and suppliers alike.  We are highly valued by our executives, and the ‘go-to’ people for business advice and guidance. 

Many of us can only dream of that utopia, and unless we work together on the basics, it will only remain a dream and no amount of retweets will improve our futures.

There’s still time to register for Big Ideas 2016. Visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

South African Public Procurement – A Work in Progress

Despite some leaps forward in recent years, South African public procurement is still suffering from the same issues.

South African Public Procurement

“Despite the reform processes in public procurement and the employment of Supply Chain Management (SCM) as a strategic tool, there are predicaments in South African public procurement practices”.

This was one of the observations in a report by two leading academics at the University of South Africa in 2012. They noted, “For example, there is non-compliance with procurement and SCM-related legislation and policies as well as tender irregularities.”

You could say that not a lot has changed, South African public procurement still has some predicaments.

The Last Few Years

Since 2012, we have seen the appointment of a Chief Procurement Officer, Kenneth Brown, who is responsible for overseeing the entire SCM operation. His role is to ensure that the procurement of goods, services and construction works is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective, and in line with the Constitution and all relevant legislation.

This in itself is a big ask as there are many laws, guidelines and regulations to adhere to. His portfolio includes central and provincial governments, municipalities and state-owned enterprises.

A new initiative is an e-tender portal and the creation of a centralised database of approved suppliers. This is a noble effort to fight corruption and make government procurement more efficient and cost-effective. The system, where all tenders are advertised, is also designed to electronically verify a supplier’s tax and black employment equity status, as well as to uncover any government employee attempting to do business with the state.

In the 2014-2015 tax year, the public sector spent >R500-billion on goods, services and infrastructure. The Government itself has admitted that at least R30-billion of this was lost to corruption. In 2015 the Treasury took a bold step of undertaking a Supply Chain Management Review on the status of SCM in South Africa and found it wanting.  This was the first attempt at assessing the situation since 2004.

The 2015 Supply Chain Management Review

The Treasury should receive kudos for highlighting its own shortcomings and imperfections, and providing some glimmer of hope of improvement.

The Review acknowledged that:

  • SCM across South Africa is highly fragmented. This makes it difficult for government to obtain maximum value from the purchasing of goods and services.
  • It needs to improve skills, processes and systems which are critical for a well-functioning SCM system.
  • It is dogged by “constant allegations of corruption and inefficiency”.
  • Key problems are: inexperienced leaders, high staff turnover rates, confusion about roles and responsibilities, political interference and the red tape for small and medium businesses.

So what is the plan?  

The big plan is to replace all the legacy systems, more than 30, with just one. This will be an integrated financial management system (IFMS) which will include the central supplier database. This will make data mining possible, and will provide more transparency into bid awards, a concept that has not been well understood in government circles up to now.

The intention is to centralise government contracts for categories such as:

  • Banking services;
  • Information Communication Technology (ICT) services;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Consulting services;
  • Security services;
  • Air travel and accommodation;
  • School textbooks and stationery;
  • Healthcare equipment; and
  • Leased buildings.

Technology will take us part of the way

Investment in technology, especially an e-procurement solution, has the potential to improve SCM efficiency and effectiveness considerably. Currently, the different systems result in fragmented and unreliable data, inconsistent processes, varying compliance levels and ineffective results.

It is not straightforward though. South Africa has a complex and unique system of preferential procurement policies to protect and advance previously disadvantaged people. These variables have to be integrated into any decision making software.

The many challenges can be grouped into these categories:

  • managerial, compliance and monitoring issues
  • lack of knowledge, skills and capacity
  • inadequate control systems
  • fraud and corruption
  • fragmented spend and lack of transparency

Comparisons with other countries

South Africa is not alone in its aspirations to do better. The UK has just implemented the Public Contracts Regulations which adds another dimension and complexity to Government procurement in UK, and brings practice into line with European Union regulations. One objective is to make procurement across EU countries easier and increase transparency.

A bill was introduced recently to promote the appointment of a Chief Procurement Officer for the United States. However, it was not passed into law due to the start-up costs, despite projected savings of 10 times the investment. It just goes to show that even developed markets have their problems.