Deloitte: Public Sector Chief Procurement Officers don’t know what’s coming. Why?

Amongst many statistics in the Deloitte report “Charting the course: Why procurement must transform itself by 2020” (linked below) two stand out for us.

First, the proportion of Chief Procurement Officers across sectors who are increasingly uncertain about the future shape of procurement (and the degree of increase in that uncertainty) and, second, the perception of the significant increase in the likelihood of the materialisation of the major risks to the procurement function.

67% of public sector CPO’s report an increase in uncertainty with none reporting a decrease in uncertainty. 53% of respondents (not only public sector) indicate an increased regulatory risk and a similar proportion report an increased financial risk.

So what do these statistics tell us about public procurement? At the most simplistic level there is an obvious relationship of inverse proportionality between uncertainty and knowledge. The degree of uncertainty reported suggests: (1) that there is a genuine degree of unpredictability about how procurement will evolve in the foreseeable future; and/or (2) that there is a failure of communication about how regulation and procedure is developing and will develop; and/or (3) there is a lack of engagement at operational level with the change which is underway.

Certainly, there will be an element of (1) in play, but if (2) and (3) are also significant factors (and we think they are) then there is much that can be done to address that uncertainty. There is a great deal of information out there which signposts the direction of travel for the regulation and practice of public procurement. Equally, many of the fundamentals will not change and an increased familiarity with the economic and legal theory of procurement will do no harm as the sector enters choppy waters.

The next significant round of change for CPOs and everyone else in public procurement is on the way over the next couple of years following the provisional agreements on EU procurement reform and the UK Governments signal of its appetite for early adoption.

It is time, at all levels, to start redressing the balance between knowledge and uncertainty.

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