I am delighted to be a judge for the National Government Opportunities (GO) Excellence in Public Procurement Awards 2017/18 (National GO Awards).
Having judged these national awards on several previous occasions, I am expecting to evaluate some exciting entries. If past years are anything to go by, I expect that I will be disappointed when I review the entries and will wonder why some great instances of exemplary public procurement practice have not been submitted. I hope that this year the best will enter the Awards and my disappointment will not be repeated!
Why should public bodies enter the National GO Awards?
One: this is an opportunity to showcase good practice and excellent outcomes resulting from exemplar procurement
Two: the Awards offer the public procurement profession an opportunity to demonstrate its positive contribution to securing public value and public benefit
Three: they also offer senior executives and political leaders an opportunity to promote their commitment to effective progressive procurement as a strategic tool
Four: the Awards enable the whole of the public sector to share excellence and learn from peers
Five: in a time of austerity, anxiety and cuts, the Awards provide a chance to celebrate and focus on the positive
Therefore, I hope that the judges are faced with hard choices and difficult decisions as we evaluate and score the submissions. The better the quality of the submissions, the harder it will be for the judges – and we should have a hard time!
So what might be regarded as excellent public procurement? And what might I be looking for in winners? My key factors would be evidence that the public procurement:
- makes a strategic contribution to the procuring body and securing its wider social, economic, environmental and financial objectives
- is backed by senior political and executive understanding of and commitment to its strategic contribution
- has delivered outcomes as set prior to the procurement process
- avoided a ‘bargain basement’ shopping approach based on price at the cost of all else including quality, employment terms for staff, etc.
- engaged stakeholders and took their views into account, especially those of service users, the community and staff
- process is proportionate to the risks involved
- avoids bureaucratic stages that add no or little value but discourage smaller providers including charities, the voluntary and community sector, social enterprises and SMEs including start-up; and actually facilitates their involvement
- is open to challenge, and public and political scrutiny
- is itself cost-effective
I would also be ready to consider making awards and commendations to procurement teams that have:
- been able to persuade political and executive leaders not to procure when this would be inefficient and inconsistent with their wider objectives
- advised on the commercial benefit of ‘in-house’ provision and alternative service models
- persuaded commissioning and policy colleagues to collaborate with and support charities and voluntary and community sectors through grant aid and not solely through competitive tendering
- a comprehensive understanding of supply markets for goods and services; and are able to work with these markets as appropriate
- facilitated innovation
- contributed to the public body’s strategic leadership
- comprehensive policies and practices to secure social value
Of course, it would be fantastic to receive submissions that score highly in every one the criteria outlined in both sets of bullet points above. This may be a tad over-optimistic but let’s hope many – actually all – of the submissions will succeed on many of these points and many more.
Public procurement should not be regarded as a ‘Cinderella’ service any more than it should be regarded as a narrow technical function. Let National GO Awards 2017/18 demonstrate that this is profession and an activity that can make positive difference.
Let the applications fly in – they need to land by 30 January.