This February, as heart themes abound, we share our affection for the public sector with you as we publish our elixir for achieving excellence in government. Private Sector by Head, Public Sector by Heart is an engaging, exciting, entertaining procurement book full of guidance and observations from experienced commercial and procurement professionals.
Since Covid-19 exploded upon us, it has changed how we buy goods, services and works, as well as how the supply chain is viewed. Globally, public sector procurement has been at the forefront of the Covid-19 response which makes this book even more insightful and imperative.
In the world of accountancy, two plus two has always been four, and always will be, whereas the way the ‘four’ is spent will depend upon volatile market forces and is dynamic by its very nature. That is why commercial activity and procurement are both exciting and the only elements that executives have any real power to change. Properly developed commercial acumen goes far beyond mere numbers and balance sheets. It seeks to ensure outcomes that deliver the most benefit to all aspects of the business.
Why this book?
So why this publication? Well, principally for two reasons:
- To dispel the myth that private sector is good and public sector is bad…
- Provoke thought and dialogue, in order to highlight the need to raise commercial acumen in the public sector.
This ‘handrail’ to achieving good commercial practice in the public sector is nothing more than that – a steadying assistance to help marshal numerous confusing volatile challenges. Whilst these sometimes seem like an insurmountable tsunami, they can be overcome when broken down to basics, ordered, analysed and faced with the collaboration of others. We felt the need to share our thoughts because none of us has come across a single publication that addresses all the issues that we encounter on a daily basis. Our aim is to shed a light on those matters and not provide specific solutions.
Because markets are constantly shifting, this book introduces topics that are ever-present in a changing environment and points to the latest evolving thinking on them.
If you rely on the provision of any goods, works or services, either to complete your role or provide a service to your customers, this is the book for you. Whilst some chapters focus on topics that will be most relevant to procurement professionals, most chapters examine a topic from multiple viewpoints, encouraging readers to consider procurement from the view of Chief Executive, internal customer, contract manager and the ultimate contract beneficiary.
This publication has been written by 18 contributors who are all current or former consultants of 4C Associates Limited and have over 400 years of combined experience in commercial, procurement and supply chain roles in public and private sectors.
We will be bringing you extracts from the book over the next few weeks. Here is a short extract from the Introduction.
The regulatory environment
The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCRs) are both stringent and rigorous for good reason to ensure propriety and protect the public purse, but they are often interpreted and followed to the detriment of the desired outcomes. This is unsurprising given the high value and level of complexity that often accompany many public projects; however, public sector procurement can range from the mundane to the incredibly complicated. With such a broad contracting landscape, the countless rules and legislation governing the various processes can be an all-consuming minefield. This is especially so for those who simply process everything within the boundaries that are governed by these constraints. As a consequence, there are considerable challenges facing those who manage public procurement projects at a strategic level and seek unshackled innovation in areas unconstrained by legacy controls.
It is a cheap shot to label the public sector as an uninspiring and unimaginative monolith, but perhaps there is an element of truth in some of the criticism, which can be summarised by the following passage from Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics at University College London, who states, ‘…if value is created collectively, then those who pursue a career in the public sector should also be taught how to think outside the box, and how to be entrepreneurial. But they aren’t’. Perhaps a little unfair at first sight but stated by someone with unparalleled experience in the matter.
The lack of commercial strategic thinking is blamed on two key issues which the public sector faces:
- The PCRs obstruct commercial skills being brought to bear;
- The budgetary constraints placed on the public sector discourage commercial acumen being applied.
These statements, whilst having a familiar ring to them, are of course untrue.
It is fair to say that the imposition of what was EU legislation bound in the PCRs has created an environment of concentration on rigid adherence to regulatory provision and, therefore, an understanding shift towards ‘output’ rather than ‘outcome-based solutions’. The regulations can be cumbersome and require wise interpretation to navigate successfully and ensure that value for money is achieved. They can appear to impair rather than ensure value for money, but only if they are wrongly applied. This book explores how the best outcomes can be achieved within the regulatory environment and transparently deliver value for money for end-users.
‘The perception that commercial acumen is repressed among procurement professionals by budgetary constraints is also unfounded. The restraints may present additional challenges, but this book will also outline how good research, preparation and collaboration across the enterprise can not only allow – but positively encourage – entrepreneurial spirit to flourish.’
Ian McPherson OBE BEM FCIPS
Chief Operating Officer
‘Ian McPherson and his team of commercial and procurement experts will walk your team to commercial excellence. Leaders, contract managers and procurement professionals in the public sector need this book.’
‘For those who care about supply chain this book is a godsend. It is not about systems, process, structures and reporting lines. If you want such advice, try an internet search for the answers. This book is different. It is different because it is about real life and written by practitioners, probably people much like you.’
University of Portsmouth
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