How to manage political pressure in public procurement

Thandy PinoPolitical pressure from stakeholders in supply chain management (SCM) is a reality. We must just find ways to collaborate with our colleagues in government successfully, advised Thandy Pino, Founder and CEO, Ntakha Consulting, and former Chief Director of Supply Chain and Asset Management at the Gauteng Department of Health, at the recent SPW Indaba 2022.

We have a responsibility to deliver the best outcome within the current legislation, she told delegates. In some cases, this means educating and guiding our politicians against interfering in our processes – we must try hard not to create enemies. It is our mission to co-exist, engage and serve ethically. As SCM professionals we have bosses, but they are not the politicians. We report to a senior accounting or finance officer from where we get our direction.

Thandy urged public sector procurement professionals to use their Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Accounting Officer to shield them from political pressure. “In government, I have never known of a head of supply chain management who reports to the political head. In our profession, we do not report to politicians, but to the highest accounting officer who is usually the CFO.

“Remember that SCM only recommends solutions. Engage and support your stakeholders but make it clear that you cannot exert undue influence on the decision makers.”

Thando described political interference as an emotional subject for public sector procurement practitioners. “However, whether we love them or hate them, politicians are one of the procurement profession’s important stakeholders and they need to be served ethically,” she told the more than 500 delegates who attended the Indaba to learn and network.

Procurement practitioners can enable political interference by telling politicians what they want to hear. She stressed the importance of unwavering adherence to supply chain processes, and to ensuring that politicians know that “you know and are committed to the processes and systems”. She recommended using every opportunity to empower and educate others – including politicians – on the supply chain management process, including using policies, circulars, instruction notes and presentations.

“When you receive an instruction or mandate, always refer to the legislation,” she advised Indaba attendees. “Ask for the Central Supplier Database (CSD) report. If the supplier is not on the database, then they are not compliant. Never have deals or agreements with politicians without your superiors,” she stressed.

“Politicians need us. We need them. However, we need to co-exist in harmony.”

In a nutshell
To avoid being subjected to political pressure we should:

  • Keep our social distance. Do not accept personal invitations to join after-hours occasions
  • Stay professional, don’t get emotional
  • Not be a puppet
  • Avoid being confrontational
  • Not build close personal relationships
  • Strike a balance when exposed to pressure from politicians.

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