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UK's chief procurement officer quits for COO post at recruitment firm

John Collington's off to slash spending in the private sector

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The government's chief procurement officer John Collington has resigned to leave for a post in the private sector.

Collington is leaving to become chief operating officer of Alexander Mann Solutions, a UK-based specialist in global recruitment process outsourcing. His successor will be named in due course, the Cabinet Office said.

Possible successors include Department of Work and Pension (DWP) commercial director David Smith and executive director of supplier relationships at the Cabinet Office, Bill Crothers. David Shields, managing director of the Government Procurement Service, is another alternative, although the choice may depend on the future shape of the role: is it one for a senior civil servant, or is it a procurement–driven position?

Some government specialists believe a job share may be considered, as the procurement strategy is largely in place and already being enacted. It may make more sense to have someone involved from DWP as it is at the heart of the shared services agenda.

Smith is arguably the most senior candidate for the role. As DWP commercial director, he is responsible for all commercial and contract management activity and its procurement spend of some £5bn per year. He is the government's deputy chief procurement officer and a crown representative for six of government's biggest suppliers. He is also a member of the Efficiency and Reform Group's Procurement Executive Board and Strategic Supplier Steering Group and the Treasury's Major Projects Review Group .

Another possible for the role is Crothers, who joined the Cabinet Office in April 2012 as executive director supplier relationships and since 2011 has been crown representative, on behalf of the Cabinet Office, for five of the larger suppliers to the government. Prior to that he was the Home Office's Group Commercial Director with responsibility for the Home Office's spend on goods and services as well as being senior responsible owner for some large, complex and high profile programmes.

The Cabinet Office said Collington had delivered "substantial results in improving the capability of government procurement and in developing the strategy for shared services. Overall spend on goods and services has reduced from £51bn to £45bn, and spend with SMEs is estimated to have doubled to £6bn."

It added that spend on consultancy and contingent labour are down 73% and savings through GPS efforts, working with departments, recorded £1.7bn in 2010-11, with 2011-12 figures being audited for publication soon.

Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "Under John's leadership, government has transformed the way it buys common goods and services, generating substantial savings for the taxpayer with around £1.7bn saved in 2010-11 alone. Thanks to John's work, government now has a much sharper approach to procurement and a much tighter grip on this spending."

Chris Pennell, principal analyst at market intelligence firm Kable, said: "People' s worth is at a premium midway through the term of the government and that is the downside of having people from the commercial sector in government. They are not career civil servants. The issue for the ERG is that it has lost some key people. Can it now continue the direction and momentum of travel following that senior staff turnover?"

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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