Saturday, 14 March 2009

Initiative? This is a Local Authority! We'll have none of THAT here.

A constituent told me a sad, sad tale this week. According to them a council employee given the job of purchasing a small number of quite low cost items had used his (or her) initiative and rang three or four shops in the town requesting prices. He had let his (or her) fingers do the walking! This resulted in the Council saving about £150. Good result I would have said. Unfortunately the Council Officer in question received a ticking off for not using the Council's Accredited Supplier for these items, which would of course have cost considerably more. Now I'm not one who says we shouldn't have financial procedures. These protect the Officers as much, if not more, than the Council. However when the bureaucracy becomes so rigid that initiative and cost saving are actually a disciplinary offense then maybe the lunatics are definitely taking over the asylum.

I sit on the Contract Scrutiny Committee. A total waste of time committee that literally exists to watch Council Officers opening envelopes. The existence of the Committee is an insult to the Officers who it watches. If we need to watch the envelopes being opened then why don't we need to watch what happens when the opened envelopes are taken away, shoved through the sausage machine and a recommendation, based on a matrix of price, quality, past performance and the f factor(*), is then brought back to the committee to endorse. The bureaucracy is running the operation. Procedures are not there to help, they are there to straight jacket everyone into total obedience. "I followed the procedures" is the ultimate defence against any accusation!

(*) f factor is the number by which you have to multiply the answer you have calculated to get the answer you wanted in the first place. If the contractor you really want is a bit too expensive but has the best heath and safety performance then you decrease the price part of the matrix and give more weight to health and safety. After all who could complain that the contractor was picked because he had the best safety record? You can't really put a price on Health and Safety can you?

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