Public AdministrationWritten evidence submitted by Leo Burnett (PROC 1)

Parliamentary Inquiry into GPS

A process bound in red tape;

A lack of clarity on the process or the expectation;

Limited human contact with no relevant experience;

A “one size fits all” approach with no understanding of the communications sector; and

No ability to differentiate an agency’s offering in any meaningful way with the questions asked.

For a government intent on reducing red tape and bureaucracy, the recent tender for communications has demonstrated the complete opposite of this. A bewildering number of attachments, an unclear process and an e-sourcing tool that was not fit for purpose. The procurement document required agencies to appoint lawyers to translate the language and understanding of what the GPS was looking for required a huge commitment of senior management time, and this was before getting to the point of completing any of the forms.

The language used within the documents was mostly irrelevant to the communication sector and the “one size fits all” nature of the procurement process meant that there was a real lack of clarity on what the GPS was looking for to enable a “winning” response.

With a system this bound up in bureaucracy and complexity, there were many situations where we found ourselves unclear of the requirement and needing to speak to someone for clarity. There was no opportunity to speak to anyone and the responses received over the e-sourcing tool were either irrelevant or unclear and very obviously written by someone with no understanding of the communications sector.

The actual questions themselves gave agencies absolutely no opportunity to differentiate themselves in any way. The questions established whether agencies had the capability, the processes they would undertake and the amount they would cost. The aim was to judge agencies on purely objective criteria, the result was no ability to differentiate an agency with a track record of effective and quality creative work versus an agency that could articulate a good process (with no evidence as to whether they could also follow this process) and that had low costs per hour for staff.

The absence of questions that allowed agencies to demonstrate effectiveness, creativity or experience in working within the public sector means that the final agency roster may not be fit for purpose in any way. It shows that GPS has no interest in creating effective work, creative that works and cuts through and therefore has a high ROI for the tax payer. It shows that the GPS, in the interests of being “fair and objective”, has rendered itself unable to discriminate between agencies with a strong track record and agencies that are cheap and process driven. In “looking forward” rather than “looking back”, the GPS will be losing all the collective agency experience and brains trust that would have enabled them to produce behaviour changing campaigns cost effectively. In judging agencies on per hour costs, rather than looking at team structures and the cost of creating campaigns, the GPS is procuring the cheapest rather than the most cost effective option… and the cheapest may not be fit for purpose in managing department hubs that, with their reduced headcount, will require significant agency support.

There are government departments already expressing concern in the process and questioning if they will get the required support from the final roster of agencies. There have been agencies with a strong government track record knocked out of the process by “not demonstrating the relevant experience and capability”. These agencies may not have got onto the final roster but being knocked out for not demonstrating the “relevant experience” when using fully integrated government campaign case studies as evidence seems incredible. Every agency that has been knocked out has no idea what criteria they did not fulfil and their reasons for not being successful.

This procurement process has failed on so many levels: From the simplest fulfilment such as a functioning e-sourcing tool, to a clear and simple process with clarity of what was required and what the GPS was looking for and finally to a process that allowed agencies to differentiate themselves on the things that matter in the communication sector—creativity and effectiveness. In looking to save the taxpayer money, the GPS has cost agencies (those SMEs that Government are meant to be supporting) thousands of pounds in resource cutting through the red tape only to be judged against a set of criteria that will never bring best value to the taxpayer. This blinkered process will potentially expose both Government and taxpayer to extra risk on the basis that they will be foregoing proven agencies (without even a COI as a safety net) to ensure things have been “done right”.

January 2013

Prepared 18th July 2013