Supplier lock in

At a midwinter solstice party last night the conversation turned to public sector procurement and fraud - as you do - between dancing, drinking and smoking.

We are engaged citizens now speechless on Brexit.

Some party goers happened to be the great and the good in public sector fraud.

How is it that with all the process in central and local government procurement - the outcome is often very high cost contracts, huge mark ups, gridlocked services and supplier lock in?

Happily a local government person has joined forces with his eminent contacts to start a small company to do something about it. That’s on top of his day job.

My 2019 hope is that smaller, faster, cheaper and more passionate companies will get a bigger slice of the procurement cake.

To make this a prediction needs detailed end - to - end unpicking and redesigning of the procurement process.

My interest is in public sector technology procurement - it‘s even harder to monitor these contracts because you really cannot see what you are getting.

I am aware of software contracts running for 15 years or more.

Old, clunky systems have a devastating effect on public sector productivity. They are also full of friction for members of the public to self-serve.

They are closed systems so blending modern tools into them is tortuous.

To tender for the opportunity to supply a new social care system takes a small company 12 person weeks of effort.

My hunch is that there are multiple factors that all need to be addressed at once. I am going to focus on the people and cultural ones here. I believe that it‘s almost always the people and relationship issues that block change.

Here’s a start - do add yours.

Trust - Local Government people have got used to dealing with the same people in the same companies and they are comfortable with them.

Risk - You cannot see the wood for the trees - specifications have reems of detail but contractors still cannot be held to outcomes.

Knowledge transfer - can the public sector staff support, develop and make at least small changes without incurring consultancy costs?

Transparent pricing - with reusable return on investment tools linked to their products and services and a public sector wide day rate cap of £500.

Data access - everything shared and returned to the public sector body in open formats.

Lessons learned - wirite in the requirement for openness about failed contracts across the public sector.

As always I would love dialogue - including with small technology suppliers - not too pushy on sales though please!