In honoring NIGP CEO, has CIPS undermined procurement’s creditability? by Jon Hansen

Posted on June 8, 2015


A colleague asked me what I had thought of Rick Grimm being awarded a Fellowship by the UK-based Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, which is the organization’s highest grade of membership.

As I wasn’t previously aware of it, my first reaction was “hmmmm, that’s interesting . . .maybe he is getting the boot and this is his send-off – an honorable discharge.”

At the risk of pulling a Ben Bradlee vis-à-vis his reporting of J. Edgar Hoover’s imminent demise, my reasoning I went on to explain is that “perhaps this is the way they got him to leave i.e. we will pay you a pension and give you accolades, but you have to leave now.” I then added that I “would not be totally surprised if he announced his “retirement” at the conference in August. This way the NIGP can be seen as making a change without casting a further shadow of dispersion over the organization and the public sector procurement industry in general.”

Again, the above is complete speculation on my part, although if no one has thought of this before now, maybe they should.

All this being said, the reasons for the honor is not as important as the optics.

Starting with the conflict of interest relating to a private entity holding the stewardship of the NIGP Code – which was clearly demonstrated by what happened in Missouri (Missouri Award Protest: The Gettysburg of Public Sector eProcurement), to the questionable “competitive RFI” for the NIGP’s consulting arm (NIGP CodeGate’s Deep Throat reveals troubling conflicts of interest at the “non-profit” association), and Grimm’s subsequent explanations that ultimately hurt more than helped his position (Watching NIGP Chief Exec implode is both sad and troubling), you have to wonder what CIPS is thinking?

I am not suggesting that Grimm should be tarred and feathered, far from it. However, and given all that has happened, bestowing accolades upon him isn’t the way to go either. Procurement is no longer a functional adjunct of simply buying at the best price. Procurement is becoming increasingly recognized for it’s strategic importance. This means that more people outside of the profession are watching. How will this look to them?

Even those within the profession, especially the up and coming Generation Next professionals who, according to an IBM study, place a great deal of importance on values, are likely to frown upon said honors being bestowed under such questionable circumstances.

In truth, and at the risk of being repetitive, this is likely another example of what Handfield referred to as being the definite and definitive divide between the old procurement world, and the new procurement world, and why the chasm between the two is likely unbridgeable.


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