The Commissioning Academy: establishing a curriculum for success

The UK Government’s Open Public Services 2012 paper declares: “…we want to establish a Commissioning Academy to drive…necessary commercial skills and confidence. In a world where more and more public services are commissioned from providers outside the public sector, we need to ensure that employees – and politicians – across central government and the wider public sector are equipped with the skills to engage knowledgeably and confidently with suppliers. This means understanding the need for outcomes-based procurement and a step change in thinking from line management to contract management.”

Much of the focus of Francis Maude’s November 2011 speech announcing the academy was on improving understanding of the nuts and bolts of the procurement process, on ensuring that officials have technical competencies to run swift, efficient, simple procurements.

However, if outsourced public services are to deliver improved results, the academy will need to create its own curriculum – moving beyond imparting knowledge of how to do what we currently do, but better, to challenging some existing tenets of the commissioning process. 

There are clear areas of public service delivery that could and should be addressed by improved commissioning. The welfare to work commissioning experience developed over the past decade and a half has significant lessons for wider commissioning practice. Which of these are the most important? What skills are essential for quality commissioners (in terms of both commissioning design and then management of outsourced services)? What role can the providers play in the continual improvement of commissioning in order to drive more/better impacts?

Buying Quality Performance is producing a brief paper with a series of ten recommendations. Some of our early thoughts are listed below:

Investing in prevention: how to cost and fund policy interventions that have very long-term benefits (and for which immediate political gain may be minimal)

Funding models: developing and understanding payment models that incentivise providers to work across the whole client group, ensuring that those requiring the most help receive it and reducing the cost of deadweight

Accountability: performance of local contractors needs to be transparent and comparable. There must be consequences for poor performance felt by the delivery organisations and government rather than the taxpayer and service users

Sustainability: a focus on long-term outcomes and informed debate about investment mechanisms in a tight fiscal environment

Integration: local and national programmes need to co-exist beneficially. Incentives need to be set to encourage integration rather than duplication


Do you agree with these parameters?

What would you add? Take away?

We’d love to hear your feedback on these as well as your thoughts and experience. You can use the response box below, or you can tweet us at @buyingqp or email us at:

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