Has Procurement improved since the days of Samuel Pepys ?

Discussion in 'Tanks, planes & ships' started by Border_Reiver, Oct 23, 2010.

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  1. Drafted this as a post earlier …..

    I of course could be totally wrong or naïve but the thing which strikes me time and time again would appear to be the absolute lack of skill of successive Governments to create within the MOD / Civil Service / whatever a pool of highly paid , trained and qualified buyers , contract writers / negotiators , progress chasers , budget monitors , and *rrse kicking personnel to be involved from day one on any new contract . I feel sure on the reverse side of the coin the supplying contractors will have invested in spades in the appropriate areas to ensure they totally exploit the corresponding apparent lack of skills within Government procurement . Even if the set up costs were hundreds of millions of pounds we would not find ourselves as we do now tied into contracts for kit that we may no longer really want / need . As has been said before if private industry demonstrated the buying / contract flair of Government Departments they would cease to exist .

    …… then I saw an article in a hard copy of The Times today which left me not quite sure as to whether to kick the cat , laugh or cry …

    Précised extracts for The Times Article

    Horrified Cameron will put business brains into the MoD

    David Cameron is to take an active role in Ministry of Defence appointments to ensure that the fiasco of the £5.2 billion aircraft carrier contract never happens again he wants MOD to hire people from the real world .

    Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP and former minister, said that the powerful Public Accounts Committee, which she chairs , would open an investigation into the contract. "We will definitely want to look at this," she said .

    We cannot have our hands tied again guaranteeing BAE a set amount of work over 15 years .

    Regret no linky ... perhaps someone could oblige .

    Earlier this year I read The Diary of Samuel Pepys and there were procurement problems in his days … we do not seem to have built very much on some of his good practices over the past three hundred years … in fact we may have regressed .

    Rant over .
  2. Wasn't one of the main reasons the Carrier project jumped in price because the government/treasury kept trying to shift it to the right?
  3. In answer to the question: apparently not!
  4. I have just spent the last 15 years as a freelance tech author/auditor working through agencies and by contacts, word of mouth and of course the "old boys network" in the field of procuring contracts with MOD,DOD, and other foreign government defence agencies, it is a given that my(our) work is directed towards ensuring that every single aspect of the "bid" is covered ,technically,legally and of course financially in favour of the client. To put together a team of equal capability at the MOD has been muted on many occassions in the past, and would be relatively easy to do , providing the money for salaries etc was availiable, of course there would be a huge bunfight among the senior civil servants who currently advise ministers and the cabinet, after all they do not want to see any intrusion into their own little empires by outsiders, then of course as some one has posted the Rt hon Mr Campbell feels that he himself is capable of making the decisions with his vast knowledge and experience of business, finance and technical matters. At the moment the procurement system is at best haphazard at worst a complete shambles with too many fingers in the various pies, so yes a single entity within government dealing solely with defence procurement would seem to be the way to go in the future, but it will take a hell of a brave man/woman to trample roughshod over all those at present "involved". Not i any longer, having hung up my spurs this month, i have procured a new set of clubs and golf buggy and bid the system good buy!!!!
  5. Errr, isn't that what DE&S with its IPTs is supposed to be now?
  6. I knew there had to be a reason why I'd never before heard of such attempts.
  7. What do you think? I think its gone West personally...

    The carrier thing is baldly political - he wants to make capital about the fact that Jock Brown(e) wrote a blank cheque for jock jobs.

    AS for bringing in brains of industry, it happens already - take the DTR which collapsed last week - it had a ton of people from industry employed, to **** all effect. Take MoD's PFU stuffed with bankers and it's Commercial Chief? The last couple brought in from industry....

    Most of the IPTs are, of course, led by servicemen - is this the change he is hinting at? The flipside is the companies who provide the outputs are chock full of a mix of commercial and ex-service people.

    Like most other things they want to privatise the procurement of Defence capability, which is fine. The reason is that there is then another layer of shareholder return created by Government spending its err spending.

    It wont make things much better though, will it? If something, like building submarines or aeroplanes, is difficult to do - it is difficult to price.

    Pretending that commercial brains will make it work better is a fallacy - if the commercial brains were that good, then you would already get what you want when you want it at the agreed price because its "them" delivering it......
  8. The centralisation of key resource has created some wonderful circular arguments. I hadn't realised that this was general policy, just a specific case.
  9. Interesting point. From Acquiring Goods and Services: Public Procurement
    Pepys, who was probably a masterly palmer of brown envelopes, would be very interested in the refinements we've made to handing out bungs.

    I don't recall if the diaries cover an instance like the carriers, politics wasn't so representative in his day though similar influence peddling is apparent in even in the Bronze age. This was plainly New Labor politicians delivering pork to the folk that lobbied for it, in this case Scottish ship builders and then allowing them to lard it up.

    To some extent it is what they were democratically elected to do and some MPs regularly get reelected this way. Unfortunately defense is national and often a distant concern while our most urgent politics is local. A preoccupation with the local spawns its own kind of entirely legal corruption. And who is to say it's all bad. The US Senate specializes in this sort of thing. America's ability to defend itself has perhaps been compromised by mammoth sausage factories like SDI but never fatally and let's not forget pork is what built the powerhouse economy that California once was.

    Bringing in some puffed up suit from "industry" who'll doubtless rotate out to seats on many boards if he is obliging to the providers isn't going to fix that sort of problem. The last bunch of scoundrels came in jabbering about procurement efficiencies as well but there are very conflicted goals in affairs of defense.
  10. Two thoughts

    First, to get real world business leaders into the MoD, they will have to pay real world salaries.
    Second. Didn't the business world bring us Just in Time purchasing?
  11. Real world salaries paid to real world businessmen would be cheaper than buying things that were unfit for purpose.

    What would you know about the business world having been out of it for so long?
  12. Trans-sane

    Trans-sane LE Book Reviewer

    First. Paying a highly qualified team of contracts negociators and project managers the going rate (or even near the going rate with a bonus system based on how much they knock off the asking price) would probably cost a few 10s of millions, but within a couple of years would save billions.

    Second. Any competant process consultant or supply chain manager would take one look at miliatry requirements and declare "just in time" not fit for purpose. Just in time was developed by industry but it is based on there being a constant and relatively unchanging demand for product, coupled to highly efficient and cost effective supply chains. Neither of which applies to anything military appart from possibly such basics as cook house supplies in the touted "Super Garrisons" and cleaning supplies for the same. My take on the "Just in time" fiasco is it was an impressive sounding buzz-word that some mong in the MoD (uniformed or not) used to secure a promotion without actually thinking the consequences through.
  13. alib ...

    Thanks for additional information about Pepys . Perhaps understandably he made no record of “ Bungs “ alleged or otherwise in the version of his diaries that I read .

    The article I mentioned in The Times actually goes into some detail concerning personalities then political , geographical and contractor factors concerning the awarding of these contracts . . I am however astonished , Hi Hi , to read that political considerations over and above value for money and national benefits may have influenced the contract for our two new Aircraft Carriers … now of course to be sans Aircraft .
  14. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    Several points:

    1. Why is Margaret Hodge trying to make political capital out of the carrier contract and the BAE 15 year programme deal? I didn't hear her voting against it when her party signed up to it.

    2. The last govt did put a businessman in to sort out MOD procurement -Lord Drayson. And he was doing a good job until he was pushed out by Brown when he was Chancellor.

    3. DE&S is a mess because they got rid of the experts and left "managers" to decide things. All the real work is done by consultancies staffed by the clever excivil servants who realised they could make more money doing the same job for someone else. The remainder are the lazy, the old and the feeble minded.
  15. Margaret Hodge heading up the investigation that will definitely look into this. Hold on ... would that be the very same utterly useless Margaret Hodge that was at the heart of the Labour government for 13 years. Oh yes - perfectly qualified to investigate her former bosses failings. Is she going to be yet another one who claims never to have agreed with Gordon, but put Party before country to keep herself in a ministerial job.

    Just in time normally = just too late. As all sensible loggies and project managers kept trying to tell them.