Spare a thought for the buyers

Image credit: Pixabay

We understand that it can be frustrating to bid for government contracts, but bear in mind how hard it can be to be a buyer in Government. In our view, outside of front line staff, buyers possibly have one of the hardest, and certainly most thankless, tasks in Government. Here’s why.

Procurement teams can face hostility from their colleagues who view them as the ‘business prevention unit’ because they have to follow stringent regulations. At the same time, they are expected to be corporate magicians who have to conjure up double-digit savings in every category they touch. They’re also at the vanguard of a raft of social initiatives, making sure that more money is spent with small businesses, with voluntary organisations, or on low carbon initiatives. And they have to do all of this whilst navigating a complex national and European legal framework.

If this corporate high-wire act, goes well, the success is seen as merely business as usual with little praise given. However, when it all goes wrong, up goes the cry “who let this contract?” and procurement teams are dragged in front of committees, taken to court and denigrated in public. This means that as long as a contract is in place or a product is in use, the procurement team is on the hook. Even if the contract has been grossly mismanaged, or the supplier is a mendacious charlatan, some of the blame will land with the procurement team. No wonder they’re sensitive to risk.

On top of these internal demands, there’s also an endless conveyor belt of suppliers seeking time with the buyers. Some want to promote themselves, attempting to massage relationships by telling tales of how great they are. Others are rejected bidders, desperate to find out why they didn’t win a tender. It all soaks up procurement teams’ time, but there’s no way they can reject these overtures without increasing the impatience suppliers have for government buyers.

We suppliers know that government procurement could be improved, but the buyers know this too. It’s easy for us to moan about how inefficient or ineffective buyers are, but while we’re doing this, they’re getting on with the job of making sure that surgeons, soldiers and social workers have what that they need to do their job as well as saving as much money as they can. Do I think procurement is perfect? Absolutely not. Do I think that suppliers should be mindful of the pressures buyer’s face? Absolutely yes.

So spare a thought for the buyers and, the next time you lose a tender, get in touch with them and say “thanks anyway, we’ll up our game in future”, because although things didn’t work out for you this time, it does work most of the time and for that we have buyers to thank.