The government has appointed private industry chief Nigel Smith as the new head of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) procurement agency.
Smith will become chief executive, replacing John Oughton, who announced he was standing down after the government announced a shake-up of the procurement agency in January.
Under the Transforming Government Procurement plan, the OGC’s remit was tightened to become a “smaller, higher calibre organisation”, focusing on central government procurement.
It will retain responsibility for carrying out the “gateway reviews” on major projects and programmes and its remit will also include setting procurement standards for government departments, monitoring performance, ensuring inter-departmental collaboration where appropriate and supporting the Major Projects Review Group.
Smith will lead this work for his three year term in the top civil service post, graded at permanent secretary level. He will be paid £180,000 a year.
The man who will oversee public sector procurement and lead the government’s relationship with suppliers is a new entrant to the civil service after a career spent in the private sector. He is currently president of Invensys Rail Systems, managing the global rail industry activities of automation specialist Invensys.
Smith was previously chief executive of Charter, a holding company that owns two engineering businesses, and has also held senior management positions at GEC Marconi and Dowty Aerospace.
His remit at OGC will include raising the level of skills of government procurement staff and driving through government-wide purchasing deals.
But it is OGC’s role in monitoring major central government projects that is set to put Smith in the spotlight.
The OGC is locked in a legal battle to prevent publication of the gateway reviews, after the Information Tribunal ordered it to publish reviews of the controversial £5.3bn ID cards scheme, under the Freedom of Information Act. The OGC has filed a high court appeal against the ruling, claiming that the review process would be compromised if documents were made public.
Earlier this month, the Commons public accounts committee warned in a report on major government IT projects that the lessons of the reviews were “not shared consistently across departments”, while in two-thirds of projects had not undergone a “gate 5” review to evaluate the benefits of the project within a year of the “gate 4” readiness for service review.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, John Healey MP said Smith had “a proven track record leading successful national and global businesses” and would play “an essential role driving up standards in government procurement".
Smith starts his new job on 3 September.