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Matthew Stanulewicz

Like many students, I didn’t have a clear direction that I expected my career to take as I entered university. My original choice of degree was American Business Studies, which happened to include a module in purchasing. Unlike some of the other disciplines I was studying at the time it was, although based upon theory, easily applicable to everyday life which appealed to me and so I made a choice to change my course.

For several years, procurement has been a rapidly growing area of business, and is now rightly seen as a dynamic area that adds value to the organisation.

Having achieved a CIPS accredited degree from the University of Glamorgan, I needed work experience to gain full membership (MCIPS), and the increasing profile of procurement meant that the job market had opened up and there were lots of challenging and interesting jobs on offer for the right candidates. Consequently, before I had given thought to my final exams, I was offered a procurement position with ARCO Ltd, based at Avonmouth, near Bristol.

My job with ARCO Ltd involved sourcing non-catalogue items, not the standard product range of safety and maintenance equipment that ARCO Ltd sold, but the niche items that were purchased for larger customers.

This meant I had great variety in what I was buying and often got asked for really random items from specially made diving equipment to purple snake brewing hose! It was an interesting start to my career, with lots of variation. I stayed for nine months and really enjoyed the challenge.

Upon deciding to move back to Wales, I took a role working for the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust in a more general buying role, purchasing medical consumables. This meant anything from test tubes to blood pressure cuffs. Again, the variety is what made it a great role; no two days were ever really the same.

It was quite specialised being the health service, but the responsibility panned across paediatric and maternity right through to physiotherapy and radiology – quite a responsibility to deliver, especially as patients can be directly affected.

Some people often comment on the difference between working in the public or private sectors – but to be honest I didn’t notice much of a difference being in the public sector in terms of the skills and abilities I needed to do my job, and the shared imperative to deliver cost and value for money savings. However, the public sector does operate differently to the private sector, especially in terms of accountability; there are many different rules and regulations to follow.

The public sector is governed in a much stricter way than the private sector to ensure that public money is being spent in the best way possible, essentially meaning that what may be best practice in the private sector is a recognised standard or legal requirement in the public sector. This includes strict internal guidelines for lower value procurements, and adherence to the EU Consolidated Procurement Directive for higher value requirements.

All tenders over the current EU Consolidated Procurement Directive threshold must be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union, to ensure a level playing field in terms of providing equal and transparent opportunities to suppliers throughout Europe and beyond. Every decision is supported through a rigorous audit trail, with the key principles of fairness and good practice at the heart of the process.

Due to natural progression in my career at the Trust, I progressed to the role of Assistant Contracting Officer. The main difference was not doing the ‘frontline’ buying in this job but becoming more involved in the tracking and management of spend. I had to make sure robust contracts were in place with suppliers, checking prices and deciding when we needed to go out to tender.

It was a great experience doing something different. As a buyer you often feel closer to the end user of the item or service you’re buying – in this role I was one step removed, but had the advantage of being able to analyse the bigger picture to ensure that we delivered best value.

I joined Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS) as an assistant buyer, I have since progressed to assistant procurement category manager, and the department I work within is now responsible for Procurement across the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

The core components of the MOJ are The National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Youth Justice Board, The Office for Criminal Justice Reform, Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) including the Royal Courts of Justice group (RCJ), The Tribunals Service (TS), Legal Aid, Judiciary Support and The Privy Council.

It serves the public by focusing on key objectives to strengthen democracy, rights and responsibilities, deliver fair and simple routes to civil and family justice, protecting the public and reducing reoffending and ensuring an effective, transparent and responsive criminal justice system for victims and the public.

MOJ is an exciting and dynamic procurement environment. We have an award-winning procurement team in the process of radically transforming the way we do things as part of a wider modernisation programme, using the latest software such as Oracle e-Business suite to get the best value out of an annual budget of c. £2.5 billion. I work in a team responsible for procurement nationally across all sectors of the MOJ Nationwide.

I have visited several different prisons to get a feel for how MOJ runs as a whole unit, and to better understand the impact of procurement decisions in the establishments. It’s easy to sit in an office doing a job without seeing other parts of the operation, and I feel it’s important to meet as many people as you can.

Responsibility for tenders and contracts are divided on a category basis. At present my responsibilities sit within Facilities Management, such as Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Building Management Systems and Smoke Vent Servicing. In the past I have had experience dealing with Contracts for Waste Management, Transport, Food, Uniform, and Building Projects, and it is important to develop a rounded view of how the organisation works.

One of the key areas of focus at present for all government departments is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which includes working to reduce waste and become more sustainable, something procurement can have a major impact on. I’ve attended meetings representing procurement on this issue, sitting alongside heads of works and environmental specialists.

We are looking at areas such as rainwater harvesting for prison farms and purchasing special machinery to convert food waste into natural fertilisers as well as ways of repairing cell furniture and recycling mattresses so it doesn’t simply get thrown away and replaced.

Recent economic difficulties have affected the way procurement is viewed within the MOJ, and more focus than ever is on the way we work and the value we deliver.

We now have to buy things with not only one eye on the item or service itself and whether it creates value for money and is fit for purpose, but also ensuring that the future disposals of items purchased and their packaging will not have a negative impact on their environment. It’s good to be able to contribute proactively to this important HMPS agenda – I guess that’s truly cradle to grave buying!

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