Optimising Outcomes from Procurement and Partnering for Covid-19 and Beyond: Lessons from the Crisis

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science


Public procurement is firmly in the spotlight in the Covid-19 crisis. Local authorities (LAs) spend around £100bn (or 47% of their total budget) annually on procurement (IoG,2018). In the Covid-19 crisis, it is crucial that this money delivers the maximum benefit for communities - whether providing for public health (including testing-tracking-tracing responsibilities), for social care (including care home provision), or as one of the key economic levers through which the local economy is to be restarted. Ineffective procurement arrangements present risks for the delivery/continuity of public services in the crisis. Where rapid scaling-up of services is necessary, the limits of some LAs' capacities (and their supply-chains) are often being tested as costs, staff and supply shortages increase. LAs must simultaneously act to protect essential supply-chains where demand has collapsed (e.g. transport, facilities management). Such challenges require smart and agile procurement responses to build strong, effective and efficient relationships and generate positive impacts for local communities.

This study will investigate these urgent issues, and how gains might be achieved in the response to Covid-19. The team will examine emerging opportunities to maximise the impact of, and leverage additional value from LA procurement. With extensive involvement and support from key stakeholders, this project will examine what is working well, less well, why, and with what effects and implications. It asks how, and how effectively, are LAs using procurement to address the challenges posed by Covid-19? What are the successes to be celebrated? Where are the tensions that need to be managed? Where is the system at risk of breaking down? What opportunities are there for improved procurement performance? The project will encourage reflection on the ability of the 'procurement ecosystem' to respond in a crisis; clarifying critical-success-factors and pressure-points and discussing what to do next.

The project will seek to identify potential leverage from an accumulation of 'positive-sum' gains. Reports here identify a long list of such potential gains, resulting from strategic, entrepreneurial and, particularly, relational approaches that strengthen the system and promote resilience. In the absence of these approaches the system may still operate - but at risk of being substantially underpowered. Impact from the study will derive from important project findings regarding effective crisis strategies; effective 'workarounds' to maintain safety, continuity and resilience (including creative commissioning processes, using the flexibility in existing procurement legislation, and combining complementary capabilities amongst supply-chain partners); and effective ways in which trust, openness and collaboration are emerging to drive innovative ways to aggregate and channel resources.


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