Setting the strategic vision and direction for public procurement in Scotland
This is the first in a series of blogs where members of the Public Procurement Group (PPG) will provide us with an update from their meetings. To start us off, Nick Ford, Director of Scottish Procurement and Property shares an update from the PPG meeting on 16 March.
“The Public Procurement Group sets the strategic vision and direction for public procurement in Scotland. I chair the group, consisting of senior government procurement officials and the heads of each of the four Procurement Centres of Expertise, between us representing all Scottish public sector organisations, spending over £12 billion annually.
While the group formally meets four times a year, we maintain an ongoing dialogue to ensure that the collective spending power of the public sector is used to deliver world class, value adding collaborative procurement services, while enabling sustainable and inclusive economic growth. I’m keen to ensure that we share our discussions and our thinking with you moving forward.
The profound health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19 and the EU exit have put Scotland in an extremely challenging fiscal position, and the group have identified a number of priorities to mitigate risks and focus all procurement leaders on how we can best use public procurement to support recovery and establish a robust, sustainable, greener economy.
At our recent PPG meeting on 16 March we agreed in principle to seven priorities for the forthcoming financial year, and subsequently shared them with Heads of Procurement as part of our consultation process to ensure that we have the right focus for 21-22 which will be consistent across sectors.
Those priorities – covering leadership, economic recovery, supply chain resilience, sustainability, climate, people and systems – are interwoven with the commitments set out by government in the national framework, reflect our own ‘good for’ outcomes, and take in to account the impacts felt by us all over the past 12 months.
We as a group believe that the priorities reflect what is best for society now and in the future, address short term needs and support economic recovery, whilst developing leadership and wider capacity, capability and systems to future-proof procurement in Scotland.
We place great importance on not just hearing, but understanding and acting on feedback, so it was fantastic to be able to discuss our thinking at the Heads of Procurement event on 17 March and how procurement leaders can help shape our approach, improve our visibility – collectively, not just the Public Procurement Group – and promote and champion priorities across organisations and sectors.
Our approach will also be shaped by the findings from the recent Scottish Government supplier survey – that received over 1,500 responses – and other cross-sector engagement. At the PPG meeting we discussed the emerging findings of the survey and feedback from two ‘virtual’ face to face round table discussions with small, medium and micro suppliers from across business, industry, construction, social care and the third sector, one of which we were joined at by the Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance.
Whilst every PPG preceding a new financial year is dominated by the year ahead, as well as looking back at progress made, we also use the time together to explore topical issues, areas of challenge and scrutiny.
In March we reflected on the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee Inquiry into the implementation of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and the Sustainable Procurement Duty. The common denominator from the inquiry, supplier survey, and roundtables was that while the legislation is good, more needs to be done in relation to consistency of good procurement practice.
This is particularly relevant to supporting SMEs and third sector organisations to engage with public procurement. Even although our 2019-20 data suggests that 79% of suppliers awarded contracts in Scotland were SMEs, there is always more we can do, and we are committed to working with the Procurement Supply Group and others to strengthen our support for all suppliers.
We also looked at two areas with significant procurement spend– construction and adult health and social care. The Scottish Futures Trust presented an overview of the Construction Forum Recovery Plan – a really positive example of industry and government working together to support the restart of the construction industry and supporting economic recovery.
Scotland Excel presented a summary of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care which sets out the new National Care Service, accountable to Scottish Ministers, to be established. Adult Social Care priorities will be around increased transparency, a focus on ethical commissioning, as well as a move towards a more person centred and outcomes focused approach. This is a significant development and I look forward to supporting its implementation and the partnerships it will deliver.
There is no doubt, that as we move into the next financial year and with a newly formed Scottish Government, public procurement will continue to have a significant role in tackling a wide range of issues. Supporting economic recovery, tackling the climate emergency and creating a vibrant, dynamic and innovative supply base will continue to be at the forefront of all that we deliver. I look forward to working with you all on the challenges ahead.”