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Monday, 9 February 2015

Are Procurement asking the right questions



When determining criteria to select suppliers it would seem Procurement need to think outside the box.

Nothing new there - but bare with me.

Today's news that care agencies broke the law not paying care workers for their travelling time between clients had me thinking (yes I know it doesn't take much).

Just to summarise - a care worker may have 10 clients to visit in a day. Some of those visits may last no more than 15 minutes, and could then involve 30 minutes to travel to the next client. Which means if someone only gets paid for the time in front of a client they're actually working for less than the minimum wage. (I won't muddy the water and include the 'waiting' time between some clients - ie the next visit isn't scheduled till 11.00 and you finished the last client at 10.20 and it's only 10 minutes to get there).

The key for me is that this has been going on for years - so how did the care agencies get away with it for so long? 

I can understand how it happened for those care agencies working for private clients. After all the client just pays £x for the hours worked. If the care agency can convince the care worker they just get paid for hours worked they can get away with it. 

The worry I have is many care agencies work for local councils. How did the fact that these care agencies were breaking the law get passed the supplier selection process?

It's simple - procurement didn't think outside the box and just asked too simplistic questions.

The answer "Yes" to "Do you pay minimum wage" was taken at face value without asking further qualifying questions about payment for travelling and waiting time. 

If nothing else this reminds councils to reassess their procurement, supplier selection, assessment and auditing processes. To do what I hate to do (because I like to trust everyone) and assume suppliers are hiding unacceptable, and in this case unlawful, practices behind their woolly answers.

Of course that begs the question about other goods and services procurement buy. After all we don't have to go too far back for other fiascos that highlight inadequate auditing - Horsemeat gate being a good example.

What questions do your procurement team need to be adding to their tender, supplier assessment and auditing to ensure they get through the fog suppliers may wish to hide unacceptable, and in this instance unlawful, practices behind.

What questions do you need to ask your suppliers this week? 

Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out - when what you're doing isn't working 

Although I also realise some of this was allowed to happen due to heads buried in the sand and voices not raised by everyone concerned. However you're hardly likely to blow the whistle if walking out of your job due to this abuse means not even the Government will give you income support. After all many of these jobs were supplied by local Job Centres - but that's another subject all together.

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