John Collington has resigned as Government Chief Procurement Officer after little more than a year in the post.
Collington’s resignation is reported by Peter Smith of Spend Matters. Smith says that Collington is to become Chief Operating Officer of Alexander Mann Solutions, a leading “Recruitment Process Outsourcing” firm.
“We might have expected consultancy, or software, but Collington has been involved in shared services in recent months and has a track record in outsourcing from his time at Accenture and I believe even before that.
“He’s got strong operational skills which should play to the COO role …” says Smith.
“Francis Maude gave Collington a glowing testimonial, as we might expect…But then Cabinet Office have to spoil it by talking nonsense …”
The Cabinet Office said Collington has reduced overall spend on goods and services from £51bn to £45bn and spend with SMEs is estimated to have doubled to £6bn, along with a 73 per cent reduction in spend on consultancy and contingent labour.
“We accept he has helped to reduce spend but, given he has no budget of his own, it’s a bit much to say he ‘has reduced overall spend’…” says Smith.
“And as Cabinet Office themselves know very well, they have no clue whether spend with SMEs has doubled, given the robustness (or lack of) around the data …”
It appears that Collington was a believer in incremental reform. He was not a Chris Chant who spoke of the need for radical reform. Chant argued with force that high costs, present ways of working and the dominance of a few major suppliers were unacceptable.
Collington reported to Ian Watmore who was Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office. Watmore has also resigned.
Nigel Smith, formerly head of the Office of Government Commerce [now subsumed into the Cabinet Office], was one the harshest critics of the way government bought goods and services.
Smith said in June 2010 that up to £220bn – nearly a third of everything government spent – was on procurement. But there were 44,000 buying organisations in the public sector which bought “roughly the same things, or similar things, in basic commodity categories” such as IT and office supplies. There were 42 professional buying organisations in public sector.
He said there was “massive duplication” of activity. We wonder how much has changed since then.