Public procurement: a highly qualified profession

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The Australasian Supply and Construction Council (CCPA) is the supreme council of Australian and New Zealand government agencies with responsibilities for procurement, construction, and asset and property management. Australian members of the APCC include, at the Commonwealth level, both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense. A key part of APCC’s role is to provide leadership in sourcing practices and improve the knowledge base of members.

In late June 2021, the APCC released the Public Sector Procurement Profession Role Statement and Procurement Capabilities Framework. The publication of these documents is a key step in the implementation of APCC’s five-year supply and workforce development strategy. The objective of the strategy is to establish a standardized level of requirements for procurement professionals that will apply in every jurisdiction of the Australian (and New Zealand) public sector. The role statement and the supply capacity framework can be used to develop educational programs, for universities and vocational and vocational training organizations, helping to develop the skilled workforce necessary for the profession. .

Why is this important?

When discussing the launch of the role statement and framework, and the reasons for the APCC’s desire to professionalize public procurement, Glenn Bain, the chair of the APCC, referred to the more than 10 000 civil servants who are directly employed in government procurement across Australia and New Zealand, and the fact that in 2019/20 alone, Commonwealth Government procurement contracts totaled around $ 54 billion. These statistics demonstrate the scale of government procurement in Australia and, therefore, why it is important that this task be undertaken by highly qualified professionals.1

Mr. Bain stressed that investing in professionalizing public procurement, as envisioned by the role statement and framework, will help boost Australia’s productivity in the long run. This initiative will put in place the structures necessary to meet the definition of a profession of the Australian Council of Professions. This definition specifies that a profession is “… a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who present themselves and are accepted by the public as possessing particular knowledge and skills in a widely recognized learning body derived from research, education and training. at a high level, and who are willing to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills for the benefit of others.2

It is also hoped that this process of professionalizing purchasing will attract new people to the profession.

Role statement and framework

The role statement and framework were developed following not only consultations with the community and the private sector in Australia and New Zealand, but also following consultations with international professional procurement bodies.

Role declaration

The role declaration:

  • Defines what is meant by the procurement function of government agencies. This function is responsible for providing cost-effective supplies that achieve the necessary public outcomes.
  • Provides the basis for the creation of the procurement capacity framework. The key capacities of this framework are governance and assurance; Planning; supply; evaluation and negotiation; and contract development and management. These capabilities are supported by relevant business skills and risk capabilities.
  • Explains the need for a recognized and common professional structure for purchasing managers. This will help ensure that procurement functions in different agencies at different levels of government “have the right people, with the right skills, in the right procurement jobs, supported by quality data and shared business terminology” .3

Framework

The Procurement Capabilities Framework is a comprehensive document that defines the core procurement capabilities and business competencies of the procurement profession and how they will be assessed. The framework distinguishes between unique core procurement capabilities on the one hand, and more general business skills on the other. Soft business skills are, like basic procurement skills, key requirements, but are not exclusive to the profession.

The framework is divided into five main themes:

  • Capacities: These are the capabilities – including skills, experience, competencies and behaviors – necessary to achieve the required procurement results. Capabilities are divided into two categories, basic procurement capabilities and generic business skills. The first category is required to provide the necessary procurement capabilities and the second category is more general, including for example project management skills. While basic procurement capabilities are applicable to different industries, additional training may be required for procurement professionals working in specialist areas.
  • Skills : These are the levels that a professional must achieve for their role. The skills identified are awareness, foundation, practitioner and expert. The skill level required for roles at different levels will vary. It will be up to each public sector jurisdiction to determine its skill requirements, although the basic level is meant to be the basic level that should be achieved within a short period of time after an individual begins a career in the public sector. public markets.
  • Procurement capabilities and business skills as a scale: The development of a skill scale will determine the skill requirements, in terms of both purchasing skills and business skills, for simple to more complex purchases. For procurement teams, it is not necessary for every member to have all of the procurement capabilities and business skills at the skill levels required to undertake their procurement tasks. Rather, the team could include individuals at different skill levels provided that, collectively, the team has the required skills.
  • Supply Capabilities Model: The framework includes a procurement capability model that defines a description of each ‘professional’ capability and ‘procurement lifecycle’, and includes a breakdown of the sub-skills that are relevant to each. This is intended to provide a consistent approach to describing each of the key procurement capabilities described in the framework.
  • Professional skills: This section of the Framework identifies the key business skills required by a procurement professional. These include data literacy; decision making; digital literacy; Financial direction; grant management; direction; innovation management; policy development and implementation; workforce management and more. These business skills are important to a procurement professional, but they are not unique to procurement.

And, finally, the framework provides that a list of government-approved qualifications and certifications will be made available through the APCC.

Importance of this step

By ensuring that the public sector public procurement workforce is skilled and well-qualified, the Commonwealth government (and other governments) will have greater confidence that their procurement processes provide better value for money, accountability and transparency, serving the interests of its taxpayers. Accordingly, the APCC strategy is to be applauded, as it rightly recognizes the professionalism of officers working in a core public sector function.


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