Should All Service Spend Be Subject to Procurement

Last week, Spend Matters UK ran a great post that asked why do executives employ their friends as consultants, which noted that one of the most problematical spend categories is professional services, and in some organizations, this is even more problematic than contingent labour spend, marketing spend, and legal spend. Why? Not only do some executives in some firms often engage senior experts and big 5 consulting firms on six, seven, and eight figure (plus) deals without any notice or without any respect for the process, but they often do so without any background checks or references whatsoever.

Sometimes, as pointed out by the public defender, the consulting firm or expert is being hired because the consulting firm or expert was hired in the past and did a great job, and, more importantly, there is a need for speed.

Sometimes, as also pointed out by the public defender, the budget holder is simply lazy. He knows the consulting firm or expert will do an okay job, and that’s good enough for him.

But sometimes, as documented by the public defender, there is an emotional dependence on the supplier, and that’s a good enough reason for the budget holder not to rock the boat, and other times there is a personal relationship, which is a great reason for the budget holder but not so great for the organization.

And sometimes, as clarified by the public defender, the reason is not a good one, or even a legit one. The budget holder might be making the award on the future expectations of a favour or because of a bribe and/or kickbacks that have been, or will be, received.

But if bribes and kickbacks was the worst situation that could happen, that wouldn’t be so bad. It would just mean that the award was costing the organization more than it should (and maybe significantly more than market average). If the work is quality, and identifies an ROI, that’s not too bad.

You see, if proper process, and due diligence is not taken, the organization could:

  • guarantee a large minimum payment regardless of work quality, completion, or dismissal (such as a 1M payment for early termination)
  • hire someone with a known criminal record for fraud
  • hire someone with known terrorist associations who will try to steal trade secret technology protected under a defence act

And if you think overpaying an average consultant who will take twice as long to produce an inferior result is bad, imagine how much worse each of these situations would be.

So, while maybe it is the case that not all spend should be under the control of Procurement, it is the case that all spend should follow the proper Procurement process under the guidance of Procurement so that all the facts, and options, are available to the budget holder. And since the CFO and CEO can be held criminally liable for certain oversights in the business, they should support this as following a good Procurement process and policy is the best CYA defense there is.

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