Strategic procurement in uk local government: The role of elected members

Publication Date01 March 2007
Pages194-212
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JOPP-07-02-2007-B003
Date01 March 2007
AuthorJ. Gordon Murray
SubjectPublic policy & environmental management,Politics,Public adminstration & management,Government,Economics,Public Finance/economics,Texation/public revenue
JOURNAL OF PUBLIC PROCUREMENT, VOLUME 7, ISSUE 2, 194-212 2007
STRATEGIC PROCUREMENT IN UK LOCAL GOVERNMENT: THE ROLE
OF ELECTED MEMBERS
J. Gordon Murray*
ABSTRACT. This paper is concerned with the potential role of elected
members in the UK local government strategic procurement process.
Strategic procurement and the best value regime are discussed. A working
definition of strategic procurement in local government is then provided. The
rationale for councils to review member involvement in strategic
procurement follows. Observations from action learning case studies are
discussed prior to proposals being offered as to what might represent
appropriate new roles for elected members in the UK local government
strategic procurement process.
INTRODUCTION
This paper is specifically concerned with the potential role of
elected members in the UK local government strategic procurement
process. Strategic procurement and the Best Value regime are
discussed. A working definition of strategic procurement in local
government is then provided. The scene is then set as to why councils
should review member involvement in strategic procurement. It is
against that background a number of research questions are
considered, specifically:
1. Can an appropriately structured approach to the identification
of strategic procurement decisions be adopted?
2. What should be the optimum mix of member and officer
involvement in those strategic decisions?
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* J Gordon Murray, Ph.D., is Programme Manager, Third Sector
Commissioning, Improvement & Development Agency for Local Government,
UK. His research interests are in improving the strategic contribution of
local government procurement and commissioning.
Copyright © 2007 by PrAcademics Press
STRATEGIC PROCUREMENT IN UK LOCAL GOVERNMENT: THE ROLE OF ELECTED MEMBERS 195
Observations from action learning case studies are discussed
prior to proposals being offered as to what might represent
appropriate new roles for elected members.
WHAT IS STRATEGIC PROCUREMENT?
Others have concluded that there is confusion as to what exactly
is meant by strategic purchasing (a.k.a. procurement) and there is
still a long way yet to go before Procurement, as a function, becomes
truly strategic (Steele & Court, 1996; Marshall and Lamming, 1997).
This paper is not concerned with the Procurement function per se, but
instead the strategic procurement process. As such, the definitions
previously proffered from the perspective of the ‘function’ provide
little guidance (for example, Ellram and Carr [1994]; Carr and
Smeltzer [1997]). It is interesting to note however that evidence
(Erridge & Murray, 1998; SOPO, 1999; Birch, 2001) indicates, within
local government, a considerable amount of the organisation’s
expenditure is carried out without the involvement of the
Procurement function. Of paramount importance though is the need
to recognise the democratic role of elected members within the
strategic procurement process. It is elected members who represent
the views and needs of the public in strategic procurement decisions;
those decisions affect the way public services are delivered and will
have an impact on citizens’ daily lives.
Perhaps more fitting descriptions of strategic procurement are
those implied by Cox and Lamming (1997) and Ramsay (2001); it
could be inferred from those discussions that strategic procurement
relates to those senior executive decisions which determine the
‘make/buy’ option. Although that description provides meaningful
positioning it has a narrow focus within the scope local government
procurement considered by Byatt (2001, para 1.6): “…the whole
process of acquisition of goods, services and works from the initial
assessment of a business need through to the end of the useful life
of an asset or end of service contract … both acquisition from third
parties and from in-house providers.” That view is reflected by the
Audit Commission’s “four stages of the procurement process” as
illustrated in Figure 1.

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