Foreign Office commercial chief: Suppliers, don't be liars

Director calls for more honesty on procurement risks

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The commercial director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has argued that if the government is to achieve its goal of procurements taking 120 days, both Whitehall and suppliers have to understand what they are procuring and the risks associated with it.

Ann Pedder told the Intellect World Class Public Services conference in London that there was an onus on suppliers to understand the business of what government is trying to achieve.

"If we are trying to achieve 120 days, then we all have to do more homework up front. It would also be useful to be honest and open about where the risk is," she said. "On some recent procurements, we have successfully managed the process, but we may have missed a trick in where the risk was placed."

Reiterating the government's desire to be viewed as a single customer, Pedder told delegates: "We have aspirations to be a single customer and how you as suppliers organise yourselves can help us achieve our aim."

She added that if you have the privilege of being a supplier to government, you are expected to behave in a certain way. There is a responsibility, she suggested, to act as a single supplier to a single customer and not as a supplier that has contracts with 10 different departments.

Also speaking at the event was David Smith, commercial director at the Department for Work and Pensions. He said the government wants to simplify procurement processes to reduce the cost of bidding down to 120 days, or even down to 90 days - a point that was also made by John Collington, the chief procurement officer, at the same event.

Smith said that reducing the cost of bidding to suppliers ultimately reduces the recharging of those costs to government. But he added: "I'd rather spend 150 days getting it right than 100 days getting it wrong."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

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