Angus Warren, Chief Executive, Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC) gives his views on how public procurement has changed over the last decade.
Where was public procurement before John McClelland published the review report in 2006?
The best way to describe public procurement before John McClelland’s Review of Public Procurement in Scotland is highly varied!
The Higher Education/Further Education (HE/FE) sectors have a spirit of collaboration embedded in their DNA, and in procurement terms, collaboration was already a well established practice as far as resources allowed. Before the review however, collaboration was generally squeezed in alongside the day jobs for procurement staff on a best endeavours basis. Procurement was for the most part, not on the agenda of senior management and so achieving depth in embedding world class procurement across institutions could often be quite challenging.
What did the review mean for you?
I came late to the show as I worked in London at the time of publication but when I joined APUC (Advanced Procurement
for Universities and Colleges) in 2009, I remember thinking at the time, the whole of the UK public sector could do with taking this on board
On arrival I found there were some early growing pains as some early implementation work confused “one size fits all” with “effective collaboration” – the review, however was very measured and when all involved fully understood it, it was clear it was about bringing added value through effective and well thought out collaboration but tailored to the specific needs of each sector and indeed each organisation. Our sectors have huge variety in the make-up of institutions and collaboration delivers most where the differences are understood and the solutions being delivered take account of this.
The review, as well as fostering increasing focus on the benefits of collaboration, dealt with the two previous limiting factors, that of enabling the establishment of increased procurement resources (both collaborative and in institutions) and bringing and maintaining procurement as an enabler that is discussed at the top table within institutions.
What does the sector look like 10 years on?
Ten years ago, less than a third of institutions across HE/FE in Scotland had professional procurement resources (or access the them through an efficient shared service), now every institution does. The sectors’ procurement environment has changed significantly over this time, collaborative spend has risen from below 10 per cent of recurrent spend to over 30 per cent with an even higher multiple of savings from the use of collaborative agreements. The Procurement Capability Assessment (PCA) programme has been a huge success with continual improvements in capability across all institutions over this period. The value of good procurement is something that is now well understood and supported by leaders in institutions right across the sector.
Where do you see the sector in 10 years?
The first ten years since the review has, as well as already delivering significant benefits, build a very solid foundation for future benefits realisation and continuous organic development, continuing to maximise collaboration while tailoring procurement activity to ensure that it is delivered in a manner to optimise each organisations’ stakeholders’ needs.
Previous 10 Years of Procurement Reform articles