London: The first signs of the Government's otherwise delayed new procurement framework for buying consultancy services suggest that it may be worth the wait. With ConsultancyONE it seems that we have got the procurement process right. It shows signs of a refocus of the way the Government buys professional services on greater value for the tax payer, hence a potential to improve the buying and provision of consultancy services.
This is, however, only the first step and is definitely not enough.
Following long discussions with our industry ConsultancyONE puts some clear water between genuine management consultancy services and the use of interim management or other staff substitution practises to meet staffing needs. These two different forms of service had in many occasions been seen as interchangeable in Central Government.
With the ERG's announcements there should be an end to the confusion between the two.
Keeping to the Government's commitment to increase its own spending with SMEs, the bidding process will potentially be cheaper and simpler making it easier for more companies to bid for Government contracts. A series of common sense changes like introducing more slots, reduced red-tape and barriers to entry for specialist companies promise to give Government buyers a better choice of the cross section of quality consulting out there.
So we have made some positive first steps. Now we need to keep the momentum for reform going. The Government needs to cease this opportunity and focus on the value and outcomes that investment of taxpayers' money deliver rather than just on price.
A clear statement setting out of why and when Government should and would buy consultancy has to follow. Greater clarity about the desired outcomes the public sector wants to achieve will instil confidence in Ministers that their staff are using consultancy services when they really need to, that they have a clear picture of what they want to achieve, and more importantly that they use these services in a way that generates better results for the tax payer.
We live in difficult times and every penny of taxpayers' money spent needs to be properly justified and rigorously evaluated. Is it time for public sector clients to start doing exactly that. Now that we got public spending under control it is time to turn to what really matters for the taxpayer: better outcomes, better results, and better value for their money.
So this framework may signal a new era in the relationship between the Government and our industry. Ultimately, it will be UK taxpayers that will benefit the most.
Chief Executive of the Management Consultancies Association.