Uncorrected evidence from Public Administration Committee
25th March 2013
Q421 <Paul Flynn:> We were told last week by Dan Ward, a serving officer in the American Air Force, that his remedy for reducing the cost of procurement was a system with the acronym FIST: fast, inexpensive, simple and timely. The system we have is complex, random, asinine and prodigious, which spells “crap”, significantly. Do you think if we reached this target of 25% small and medium enterprises, we could simplify the system?
Sally Collier: The first acronym is exactly the one we are aspiring to, and exactly the one that we are trying to put in progress. We absolutely need to change from large, monolithic, complex contracts to chunking contracts up, particularly in the ICT and digital space. We are putting in place mechanisms to allow that to happen, so G-Cloud, for example, is a framework procurement, but it is a framework procurement like none we have ever seen before. It is dynamic and it is fast; suppliers come on and off. The suppliers are telling us they love it. It is a very quick accreditation process. Some of the barriers that we have removed for SMEs aim to do exactly the things that you suggest, taking out bureaucratic processes, abolishing pre-qualification questionnaires for low‑value contracts; all of those things aim to do what you suggest. It is a fundamental opportunity; what we need for that to be more systematic throughout the entire system is this culture change that Bill and Stephen talk about. We need people to have the confidence to say, “I do not need to let that contract in the way I have always let that contract”. Coming at it from a completely different perspective actually could release an order of magnitude difference in savings from that which they would have got if they had just done the same thing.
Q422 <Paul Flynn:> One of the appealing arguments that Dan Ward had was about someone coming along and saying, “I will explain this with my PowerPoint presentation”, and the PowerPoint presentation was like a painting by Picasso, with literally hundreds of lines, drawings and connections, but utterly incomprehensible. The suggestion was that by convincing the audience of the depths of their stupidity, you encourage them to be passive and accept something that they do not understand. Does this happen particularly in IT?
Sally Collier: Absolutely, I would say, and I think that Bill illustrated that with his rate card as well. If you have got 200 rates, how do you possibly get to the bottom of what the real price is? Yes, there are many examples of where this complexity has stifled the innovation that Stephen talks about.