NAIROBI – The 11th East Africa Regional Procurement Forum (EAPF) opened in Nairobi on Wednesday with a call on the EAC member states to deploy information technology-enabled procurement systems to curb corruption.
Speaking when he officially opened the conference held under the theme Strengthening Integrity and Accountability in Public Procurement, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury Henry Rotich said corruption must be eliminated to restore public confidence and ensure fair competition.
For starters, the adoption of technology in the fight against corruption took centre stage at the forum, with a whole afternoon session dedicated for deliberations on the same.
“Adoption of e-procurement will go a long way in strengthening public procurement systems within the region, with a view to curbing corruption. Moreover, the EAC member States are signatories to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in which one of the resolutions is for the countries to implement measures aimed at combating corruption particularly in public procurement”, said Mr Rotich.
His sentiments were echoed by the Director-General of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Mr Maurice Juma, who stated that African countries are slowly moving towards e-procurement, with Rwanda being the first one to do so, and many having migrated to the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS).
“For us to improve public procurement, we will need to strengthen the capacity of the agencies involved and deploy robust ICT systems to seal all the loopholes that might provide fertile breeding grounds for corruption”, Mr Juma added.
Modernisation of public procurement systems
The forum discussed key issues affecting the transformation and modernization of the public procurement systems; forging a common front among East African Community member states on the value of public procurement for the promotion of good governance; professionalization of procurement practice through legal mechanisms; and sustaining public procurement reforms in the national procurement systems with a common strategic framework focusing on improved integrity, accountability, transparency and efficiency through adoption of e-procurement systems.
Mr Rotich reiterated that public procurement is a major economic activity which generates significant financial flows in the economy. As a consequence, public procurement has become one of the most vulnerable areas to corruption, fraud and bribery.
“A good procurement system is vital to effective public expenditure management and to the delivery of services to citizens on time, at the most reasonable cost, and with the best quality. Sound public procurement policies and practices are among the essential elements of good governance”, Mr Rotich emphasized.
The three-day event brought together about 300 participants drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. The participants comprised delegates from the public and private sectors, professional bodies, civil society and training institutions, among others.
The EAC partner states have committed to undertaking joint programmes and projects focused at promoting and advancing the East African Common Market Protocol, aimed at advancing linkages that facilitate the movement of goods and services across regional borders.
Transparency and accountability
According to Mr Rotich, current best practice in public procurement adopts the operating principles of value for money, transparency and accountability, in an environment using an integrated financial management information system that incorporates the principles of output management.
“The success of the procurement system depends on a clear articulation and understanding of what the legal and regulatory framework seeks to achieve. We must also continue to invest in the capacity of public sector systems, workers and management to ensure our public services are efficient, effective and professional,” Mr Rotich said,
He added: “To deliver that improvement in our public services we have to reform the way we think about procurement. We need to move procurement towards higher value added activities, such as: building partnership with the private sector – using procurement to lever in business efficiency, innovation and expertise; increase competition in the market for government business, and working with stakeholders to identify desirable outcomes early in the day.”
The forum also attracted attention from other countries such as South Sudan, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia and Nigeria, amongst other West African countries. A wide spectrum of participants from the public and private sector, procurement professional bodies and those of the built and natural environment, civil society and training institutions have benefitted from the forum.