Professionalising the procurement profession: panel discussion at 2018 Smart Procurement World

‘Professionalisation!’ has long been the war cry of procurement practitioners across the globe, and not less so in South Africa, where corruption is rife and procurement is often seen as the root of all evil – the home of the so-called ‘tenderpreneur’.

But what does this mean?

Professionalisation is seen as a social process by which any trade or occupation transforms itself into a true profession of the highest integrity and competence, normally achieved through the establishment of professional bodies that are responsible for the professional standards of members. Naturally, this means that members must have the necessary theory (qualifications) as well as practical skills (work experience) to qualify as ‘professionals’ – such is, normally, evident through professional designation (e.g. Chartered Accountant, etc.).

It is with the above in mind, that the panel, chaired by Prof Marcus Ambe (Unisa), discussed professionalisation and career pathing for procurement professionals.

The need for professionalisation as well as for improved status and professional standards was stressed by every panel member. This highlighted the necessity to enhance public trust in the profession. Trust can be achieved through quality qualifications, ethical practice as embodied by codes of conduct and through continued professional development (CPD) to ensure that members are, and remain, up to date with best and leading practice in the field.

Ingrid du Buisson expanded on the initiatives of the Transport Education and Training Authority (TETA), which supports the development of supply chain, and on the commitment of government to develop well-rounded procurement and supply chain professionals.

Highlighting the different understandings of supply chain versus procurement, Du Buisson advocated for a more holistic approach, supported by a framework that she has recently developed to accommodate all supply chain professionals. She also referred to the progress made in this regard, by the National Treasury and the Supply Chain Council, in partnership with the various professional bodies in the sector.

Supply chain recruitment becoming a strategic imperative in any business was advocated by Christa Bonnet, a specialist advisor in targeted procurement and enterprise and supplier development. She also highlighted the important role that mentorship plays in retaining supply chain talent and placed emphasis on the development of women in this sector.

Cornelia Olivier, Head of Sourcing, Corporate Services, Absa, was able to give a private sector perspective, while Senethemba Mfokazi represented the public sector.

In closing, it is the responsibility of each supply chain professional to professionalise the procurement profession and to promote the profession as one where the highest ethical and professional standards are maintained, said Dr Carin Stoltz-Urban. She closed with the quotes from Barack Obama and Ghandi, respectively: “We are the leaders we have been waiting for!” and “Be the change you want to see in this world”.

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