via Editorial Comment: SPB needs to be bound by the rules | The Herald 13 August 2014
THE State Procurement Board has been criticised in a public report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General for neither having nor implementing a human resources policy with formal contracts for all its staff.
This clearly needs to be fixed, but we also need to keep everything in perspective.
No one is suggesting that the board has been dishonest or that the board and its staff have not been assessing State procurement using anything but the proper rules.
The core functions of the SPB appear to be all done properly.
But, like bishops and judges, the SPB needs to be perfect in its obedience to all rules and seen to be so.
It often creates criticism when it insists that short-cuts are not allowed and so cannot complain when another independent State body finds grounds for criticism of the SPB.
After all one of its jobs is to write and enforce the rules that have to be followed when any Government department or other State entity wants to buy goods and services. So the board, even in areas not directly connected to procurement, needs to be bound by the rules.
In small units, labour relations are frequently different from those in huge concerns.
When everyone knows everyone else and the boss probably has quite detailed knowledge of the families of his staff, then there is a tendency for a less formal office atmosphere, especially when all staff are similar sorts of professional.
The SBP is such a unit.
So it has worked and worked well without all the human resource formalities.
But it does need them, at a reasonable and rational level.
We have all heard horror stories of over-elaborate reporting structures and all staff matters handled in ways that remove discretion and judgment.
This is not needed at the SPB.
But we think it can quickly create and implement a fairly simple structure and set of policies, and can give its permanent staff the contracts they require, both under the Labour Act and through simple natural justice.
So far as we understand the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General he wants a structure and set of policies, although he is not laying down what these should be, although we assume that he would want some sort of standard policy acceptable to accountant auditors.
But that still leaves the SPB with a lot of options.
Just because everything is working well now does not mean it will always work by being run in an over-informal way.
A few difficult employees, a silly egoistical boss and the board will find itself with a problem on its hands.
It does not need this.
We think the board is efficient, so we do not think it will take long to craft the sort of policies, systems and contracts that the Comptroller and Auditor General desires to see.