Purchasing in a pandemic: the next steps for public procurement

July 6, 2021
Supply chains

Download slides

The pandemic presented governments with a series of huge and novel procurement challenges. Civil servants had to secure supplies of PPE and ventilators as international supply lines dried up, to launch major new services such as testing, and to commission essential goods – providing school pupils, for example, with support such as laptops and free school meals. Meanwhile, officials have been working with medical researchers, pharmaceutical firms and production facilities to develop the vaccines that offer us a way out of COVID-19.

Many commercial and procurement teams have shown impressive innovation, agility and pace as they meet the public’s needs – but the pandemic has also revealed gaps in planning and capabilities, and exposed weaknesses in some of the expedited processes used to speed up purchasing. Governments may now, for example, want to develop contingency plans for future pandemics, putting in place the skills, processes and contracts to secure essential supplies in a hurry. And while emergency procurement processes enabled governments to meet people’s needs quickly, they sometimes came at a cost to probity, transparency, value for money, and other public policy goals such as supporting SMEs and promoting user-focused design.

At this webinar, civil servants and external experts discussed how leaders and staff in governments’ commercial, procurement and contract management operations can build on the year’s achievements. How can governments mainstream the progress made in hastening procurements, while restoring the focus on value for money, quality and propriety? And what kinds of planning and preparations could leave commercial teams better prepared for future emergency procurements?


Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.

Matthew Rees, Commercial Hub Director, National Audit Office, United Kingdom

Matthew Rees returned to the National Audit Office (NAO) in 2021 as Director of the NAO’s Commercial Hub, having previously served as the NAO’s Director of Corporate Finance until 2016. In the intervening period Matthew was the Director of Regulation and Economics at the SSRO, a Ministry of Defence agency, and Senior NED at Gemserv Limited. Matthew is a member of the ICAEW’s Supervisory Council, and he has a wide range of private and public sector experience in accounting, corporate finance, competition policy and economic regulation.

Paulo Magina, Deputy Head of Division, Infrastructure and Public Procurement, Public Governance Directorate, OECD

Paulo Magina is the Deputy Head of the Infrastructure and Public Procurement Division at the OECD Public Governance Directorate, leading the organisation’s work on public procurement since 2014. In this capacity, he is helping member and non-member countries in their efforts to improve the legal and regulatory frameworks and institutional arrangements of their public procurement systems, making them more strategic, efficient and effective, and impactful for the life and well-being of citizens.

With over 15 years’ experience in the public sector, before joining the OECD he was member of the board and CFO of the Portuguese Central Government Shared Services Agency (eSPap), in charge of finance, accounting, HR, IT and public procurement for the public administration. Prior to that, Paulo was the Chairman and CEO of the Portuguese National Public Procurement Agency (2010-2012), where he led the setting up of the central purchasing body and the implementation of the national e-procurement system. He also worked with the EBRD and UNCITRAL to advise policy and legal reforms, develop action plans and road maps for restructuring public procurement systems in the CIS region (2012-2014).

Formerly, he was member of the Board of Directors and CFO of the Portuguese national railway company CP (2006-2010) and a senior financial adviser for the secretary of state for transports in Portugal. Paulo started his career in the banking and private equity sectors, where he held managerial positions for more than 12 years as Investment Director. During this period, he was also responsible for assessing several PPPs and infrastructure projects and led the financial team in the design and setting up of light-rail projects and motorways in Portugal.

Paulo Magina holds a master degree in Business Administration and Management from Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics, and was an invited lecturer in post graduate and MBA programs in the same university lecturing Financial Strategy, Private Equity and Venture Capital. Currently, he teaches several courses in Public Procurement topics in international master programmes in Italy and Ukraine.

Grant Johnstone, Head of Government Engagement Europe, Mastercard

Grant Johnstone leads Mastercard’s European Government Engagement team, focussed on designing and delivering digital country level solutions for public sector participants across the region. Grant and his team engage directly with government departments and commercial entities to develop new digital ecosystems and optimise existing programmes by leveraging globally successful use cases. With over 25 years of international experience, Grant brings a broad perspective having worked across the mining, freight, IT, financial services, travel, banking and government sectors.