Telegraph claims Maude to implement “Stalinist” procurement strategy!

by Peter Smith on October 10, 2010

Today’s newspapers (Sunday) are confirming what we reported on Friday - the report from Sir Philip Green on Government spend is due tomorrow.

But I noticed an incredible comment in the Telegraph -

The coalition would now impose “Stalinist” controls on public sector spending, Mr Maude was reported as saying”.

If he really said that, and note that it is only a ‘reported as saying’, he may live to regret it!  As well as the strange use of a communist dictator and mass-murderer as a role model by a Conservative Minister, and although history isn’t my strong point, I don’t think Stalin’s economic policy was a huge success..

And there is a serious point here.  In a procurement context, what makes Mr Maude think he can dictate from the centre what needs to be bought in every Department, Agency or other government body, across every part of the country? I’m all for some greater control on spend and aggregation  of demand across Government, but we need to have a sense of proportion here and what will actually work.  If he really does impose ‘Stalinist’ controls, then there is a real possibility we will end up with Stalinist outcomes.

(PS A Conservative party member of my acquaintance just said to me, “isn’t this the opposite of Conservatism – and of what Cameron is going on about – that the centre doesn’t always know best”?)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex October 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I’m one of the people who’s been asking how you reconcile the two agenda: localism on one hand, central-driven efficiency and debt reduction on the other… Suspect the answer will be the same as ever twas: that Cabinet Office’s remit extends only to central govt and quangos (as they’re being brought closer to central govt). For local govt, I think they’re staking the farm that open data and public scrutiny (and of course, budget cuts) will get councils to do the right thing on their own.

Dan October 10, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I think the first step (and the trick OGC always missed) is to incorporate participation in central government initiatives into the work objectives of staff on the ground. In the old world, there was limited recognition and reward for staff who cooperated in OGC and Buying Solutions working groups.

If Francis Maude ensures that cooperation, collaboration and aggregation of spend is set out in Heads of Purchasing/Commercial Director’s objectives – then I would expect the civil service to respond accordingly. If we carry on ‘as is’ then aggregation will just sit on the back burner as supporting departmental objectives will come first.

Drew1166 October 10, 2010 at 7:11 pm

I agree the reconciliation of centralisation/aggregation v’s localism is difficult, for me the key is flexibility, and acceptance of the fact that quite frequently a one size fits solution is not a good solution. A possible way forward in this case is to identify spend areas where loss of local control can be seen as to have no impact on delivery and/or outcomes.

David McCormick October 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm

The idea of bringing commercial agreements to the centre is sound commercial sense.
Isn’t it time that we began to see that Procurement is not about ’satisfaction’ or ‘local flexibility’ or massaging ego’s? I was brought up (in days before computers) that the best deal is the best deal. Sometimes it can come from unexpected places. If there are people out there who can demonstrate that they have a “better deal”, make an avenue open to them to challenge what’s on the table.
Until that time comes, “value” is where it is perceived to be – with big deals negotiated centrally.
If you have examples of “better deals” than those currently available from the Centre, then focus your views on the decision-makers and persuade them that you know better.

Adrian Bettinson October 12, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Are we really surprised??? Look back at SM articles and you will see ‘remarkable’ savings reported in the past alongside consultant-led ‘new paradigms’ for procurement – followed by NAO-type reports that these do not work.
Police uniforms…? wasn’t that a specific comment years ago (see SM 5.10.2005 ‘A Force for Change’- reporting on initiatives from back in 1993 being revised)
So what went/continues to go wrong? The easy stuff should be, er, easy! Surely the procurement staff would be better off ensuring their skills are used for these projects rather than finding themselves undervalued and out of a job?

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