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Public Procurement Excellence

How to leverage awards as a tool to increase efficiency


October 15, 2014
by Francois Emond

September 2014 print edition

Improving processes on a continuous basis is something everyone must consider in today’s business reality. Whether the private or the public sector, it’s now part of everybody’s job to think differently in order to gain efficiency and be more productive. These principles easily translate to the private sector, especially in manufacturing. But they also apply to public procurement. Agencies from all levels must question the way some processes operate.

This requires leadership, drive and effort as well as resources whether human, technological or financial. Even though we know that we are trying to be more efficient in order to increase the overall performance of our organizations, the public procurement professional is often acting behind the scenes and therefore can encounter more challenges in terms of seeing end results of their contribution and seeking recognition when it comes to process improvements and gains in efficiency.

It’s easier to begin the journey of continuous improvement and excellence with a goal. It’s easier when we see how other organizations perform in a similar environment, and if we can benchmark best practices against them or against measurable criteria but that also set a high standard in process performance. Key public procurement processes to be improved should line up with topics like innovation, professionalism, ethics, productivity, leadership, training and the ability to use technologies available (e-procurement).

There is an award that recognizes best procurement practices specifically for public and not-for-profit organizations. The National Procurement Institute is the founding sponsor of the Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award (AEP). This award is open to any size of public and not-for-profit organizations from any sector, whether municipal, provincial, federal, crown corporations, education or health. Organizations that win do so if they meet a score based on standardized criteria related to public procurement processes and are in line with goals and objectives when starting a continuous improvement initiative.

The Canadian Public Procurement Council (CPPC) is now the Canadian sponsor of the award, which gave us the opportunity to sit on the evaluation committee as an official evaluator to review submissions from across the US and Canada. The rigorous evaluation process made us realize that this recognition shouldn’t be seen just as an award. It’s also a tool to motivate an organization and, more specifically, its procurement function, to achieve those best practices. Just by looking at the criteria provides key information on what their plan should be to improve their internal processes.

Some criteria relate to supplier awareness of the organization. It’s required that a section of the organization’s website be dedicated to suppliers and provide information on how to do business, but also to offer training to suppliers. These criteria contribute to optimizing and opening market conditions, which is a key process in public procurement that helps reduce costs. Other criteria look at ethics, giving points for having an ethics code or policy that was not just developed by the procurement professional but voted and approved by a council or a senior management or board of directors.

Looking at the progress made by some of the organizations that have submitted their applications and earned the award year after year—with consistently higher scores—and are now way above the minimum score makes it clear they’ve used that award as a tool to improve their processes. The feedback provided by the evaluation committee also gives key information that will influence the priorities and action plan related to continuous improvement initiatives.

It’s easier to start a continuous improvement initiative with goals, objectives and strategic priorities. Instead of starting from scratch, public procurement professionals should look at available tools. The AEP Award is one example specific to Canadian public procurement—a main reason CPPC is now the award’s Canadian sponsor. Look at the evaluation criteria and see how your organization meets or doesn’t meet them. They are available through the CPPC website (www.cppc-ccmp.ca). This is an excellent base to start your continuous improvement journey and contribute to the efficiency of your organization.

Francois Emond is the executive director of the Canadian Public Procurement Council (CPPC) and can be reached at femond@cppc-ccmp.ca. The organization is the leading voice for professionals involved in public procurement in Canada. Visit the CPPC website at www.cppc.ccmp.ca.