Cabinet Office debuts contract management 'career bible'

Written by Jim Dunton on 22 February 2018 in News

Government Commercial Function professional standards handbook touted as ‘tool for career progression’

Jeremy Heywood Credit: Civil Service World

A new handbook on professional standards for contract management has been described by cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood as a key step in strengthening the civil service’s commercial capability through helping staff develop new skills and progress in their roles.

The just-published Contract Management Professional Standards document emphasises the extent to which civil servants can add value to the government’s £45bn-a-year spend on goods and services by taking a long term view of the contracting process, rather than just the procurement phase.

Heywood and civil service chief executive John Manzoni warn in the 30-page document that government staff risk downplaying the impact of what are often the more important elements of contracting by focusing only on procurement. 


Heywood and Manzoni said they had identified that the bulk of contract management activity sat outside the commercial function, with those responsible for such roles coming from policy or operational backgrounds – a situation necessitating the development of a guide to the commercial capabilities expected of them. 

The handbook, created by the Government Commercial Function, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, and the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, underscores the extent to which staff can add value to the contracting process with pre-procurement stakeholder engagement and effective post-procurement management.

It also provides side-by-side competency listings for key roles, differentiating what is expected of foundation-level staff, practitioners and experts.

In a joint foreword to the document, Heywood and Manzoni stress the importance of understanding policy goals, considering the potential for commercial support, making sure the right services are procured, and then managing those contracts effectively.

“There is a risk that we only focus on procurement, and downplay the impact of what often are actually the more important elements,” they said. 

“The way we do this can make the difference between the success and failure of vital services or major infrastructure projects. 

“That is why strengthening our commercial capability remains one of the top three management priorities for the civil service.”

The document also provides case studies on the Department of Health and Social Care’s £2.5m Healthy Start Vitamins contract and the Department for Work and Pensions’ £500m Work and Health Programme. 

The standards, which have been designed to be read alongside the Civil Service Competency Framework, Civil Service Leadership Statement and the Civil Service Code, can be read here.

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