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Should our big spenders be qualified?

Isn’t it time that those who spend tens of billions of dollars of public money every year should be obliged to be trained and qualified to spend it wisely? 

We think a generic NZQA-accredited procurement qualification should be required for procurement practitioners of significant projects. The savings – both in procurement process efficiency and in delivering services and projects to our communities – would be immense.

We don’t tolerate doctors, lawyers, engineers or accountants without qualifications or training, do we? Or plumbers, teachers, nurses, or any number of other responsible professionals.

So why is it OK for procurement staff in public organisations to spend tens of billions of dollars of our money every year – without any requirement for training, qualification or professional development?

Why should this concern NZ Inc.?

Time and again, regular suppliers to government organisations bidding for contracts via tendering tell us tender documents are very often cumbersome, time-consuming and often misaligned to the drivers for value for money on the products and services they seek.

As a taxpayer or ratepayer, that alone should worry you. We work hard to generate the money we pay to government organisations, and it seems fair that it should be spent wisely.

Moreover, tenderers increasingly complain when they perceive that evaluation processes are obtuse or unfair – and there is little awareness or application of Government’s Rules of Sourcing. It’s worrying if suppliers are not always treated fairly – another factor that’s likely to erode the value that we receive for public expenditure.

One organisation stands out in contrast, however. The NZ Transport Agency is acknowledged universally as the best public procurement agency this country offers. What is their secret?

Since the early 1990s, the NZ Transport Agency has required significant procurement projects to involve an NZQA-qualified tender evaluator. The qualification is focused on the practical aspects of procurement that are most obviously relevant to achievement of Value for Money: robust procurement planning, developing RFT documents, processing and evaluating tenders, and application of ethical tender evaluation and Government Rules of Sourcing.

With robust procurement procedures that are run by trained and qualified professionals, it’s no wonder that there’s more confidence in the Agency’s procurement processes than any other public entity.

With the NZTA’s bespoke qualification now broadened and updated to address all public procurement, the NZQA Level Six Procurement Qualification is an ideal vehicle to achieve this. The qualification is designed for busy procurement practitioners. Assessment and training is workplace-based and 100% manageable alongside the hectic demands of public sector Day Jobs.

What’s more, the qualified assessors include coaching, advice and support for candidates over the 6- 18-month period during which they work through their qualification.

What are we waiting for?

We have the tools to achieve better procurement capability. Now all we need is buy-in from government to make the difference we need in procurement.

If you’d like to add your comments, please click this link and drop us a line.

Your comments will be used to canvass opinion and – we hope – support change for better procurement skills throughout NZ government organisations.

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