Friday 27 March 2015

Building Capability in Procurement and Supply Chain

By Erika Hakala

The official kick-off for the collaboration between CIPS and DILF (Danish Purchasing and Logistics Forum) was held in the Tivoli hotel in Copenhagen this week. The speaker at the event was Torben Soll, Manager in the Quality Assurance and Professionalisation unit and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Procurement Support Office in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Torben not only spoke about procurement in the UNDP but also about their 6 year partnership with CIPS and how the UNDP uses the CIPS certifications to educate, improve and motivate their staff.

UNDP has a programme called ‘Buying for a Better World’ that helps the public sectors of developing countries to conduct procurement that meets international standards. The UNDP procurement programme is viewed so favourably as a safe means of procuring goods that many countries that are no longer in abject poverty still prefer to use the UNDP to procure on their behalf in order to combat corruption. Such countries include Brazil and Argentina. Torben made a great point in expressing how vulnerable procurement is to corruption and how the UNDP has a zero tolerance to any kind of gifts regardless of culture, size of the gift (even a baseball cap must be declined) or how rude it might come across.

Torben also told us a story of an extremely challenging procurement environment which really highlights the importance of the right supplier and good procurement practices. The UNDP had a project in Somalia to build a prison for the pirates there. This was a significantly challenging project, not least for the fact that, given the instability of the country, the area that is actually under governmental control is very small. Further challenges arose when the prison walls collapsed immediately after the first sand storm hit it – thankfully there were no inmates incarcerated there at the time. This was due to the fact that the supplier had not had enough cement in order to properly mix the concrete. This therefore shows the challenges that the UNDP faces and how procurement practices are impacted in troubled or deprived regions of the world.

Looking closer to home, Torben also told us in depth about the work the UNDP are doing with CIPS to better their own procurement. The UNDP have experienced a rapid increase in spend but no change in the amount of staff. Realising the increased risk and complexity that this brings, coupled with the organisation’s move away from solely purchasing foods to procuring services and civil works as well, the UNDP were keen to improve their workforce’s knowledge. They also found that the level of procurement varied from person to person or between teams.

To address this, the UNDP use a tailored version of the CIPS certification programme that is still accredited and recognized by CIPS. Their collaboration with the CIPS programme has not only evened out the experience gaps within the UNDP procurement but also stimulated corporate progression, creating a desire to achieve a higher qualification level, driving upskilling of the workforce.

Within the UNDP the CIPS certification is now treated effectively like a driver’s license with all procurement professionals there required to attain at least a level 2 certification no matter where in the world they are based.

As procurement departments face new challenges and increased pressure to justify their value within organisations, it is crucial that procurement professionals are encouraged to develop their own knowledge and skills, and rewarded for doing so. The UNDP is the perfect example of how an organisation can drive these improvements and subsequently ensure that procurement is building capability and that strategy is being delivered through a focus on procurement excellence and knowledge.

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