Procurement regulators meet

KAMPALA, Uganda-East African member states have been urged to put more emphasis on value for money rather than dwelling on processes and procedures if Public procurement is to indeed lead to economic transformation.

Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba, the Managing Consultant at Reev Consult said this while addressing delegates during the 6th East African Procurement Forum. He said this is because procurement is one of the pillars for the transformation of an economy “Because if you have very poor procurement, then you are going to have very serious problems.”

He stated, “The major problem we have here is that we tend to glorify procedures so much rather than delivering value for money.  People tend to believe so much in procedures rather than in delivery of services. The procedures are even affecting the budget performance. 

“Here we do cash budgeting instead of approval budgeting. So by June 30 if the money is not spent, it is taken back to government. That is not a very good thing for procurement. You therefore find budget performance failing not because money was not available, but because of the procedures needed to follow before that money is released.”  

The East African Procurement Forum is an annual event organized on a rotational basis by the regulatory authorities of the East African Community member states. It began in 2008 and was first hosted in Kampala.  

The objective of the procurement forum is to provide a platform for participants to share experiences and benchmark with one another with a view to improving public sector procurement in the respective countries.

The 6th East African Procurement Forum under the theme, ‘Achieving value for money in public procurement’ was held at the Speke Resort in Munyonyo and it brought together over 200 delegates from the Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and the host Uganda also attracted delegates from other nations like Nigeria, Ethiopia and Botswana.

Providing a critical analysis on the bottlenecks identified in the public procurement value chain in Uganda, Nuwagaba argued that internal failure costs are actually the major bottlenecks in public procurement stating that there are 15 major steps that need to be undertaken in order to procure goods and services in terms of processes and procedures.

During the forum, the delegates resolved to move public procurement to a higher level of efficiency and transparency. 

The delegates resolved to review the laws so to make them simpler, focus on value for money and results as opposed to processes, reduce lead times and unnecessary cumbersome procedures.

They also agreed to adopt the practice of group procurements for goods and services commonly used by Ministries Departments and Agencies in order to benefit from economies of scale.

The delegates also agreed that procurement regulators should establish an integrated procurement management system linked to other government agencies such as tax bodies and registrar of companies among others to ease the pre and post qualification of providers.

“The Governments should implement the following to support SMEs; address the challenges faced by SMEs in partnership with other relevant stakeholders, set thresholds for which only SMEs are eligible to bid, sensitize SMEs on procurement matters to enhance their effective participation in public procurement, implement deliberate policies aimed at mainstreaming SMEs in public procurement and simplify pre-qualification requirements for SMEs,” a communication from the PPDA Uganda reads in part.  

They also agreed to develop and harmonize procurement policies in all EAC member states. The said that the procurement Authorities and the Governments should ensure that procurement units are appropriately staffed, the cadre are supervised, trained, appropriately remunerated and motivated; Establish an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism of the procurement 

The delegates said that they would also adopt the use of e-procurement in a phased approach to improve efficiency and reduce opportunities for corrupt tendencies as well as develop appropriate legislation and use existing standards in the implementation of e-procurement.

The EAC procurement bodies also promised to lobby their respective national Governments on the submission to the EAC Council of Ministers for the establishment of an institutional arrangement for Procurement in the region. 

They also said that they would root for the fast tracking of harmonization of procurement procedures and regulations in the East African Community.

Dr. Simeon Wanyama the Chairman of the PPDA Board in Uganda said, “Public procurement in Uganda accounts for more than 55% of the government’s budget annually. 

Given its sheer volume, it is important that the national procurement system is one that enhances quality, timeliness, appropriateness of procurement and enables government to deliver on its mandate. 

“The procurement forum is always an opportune platform at which participants can brainstorm and identify major systemic weaknesses, share success stories and agree on ways to improve procurement practices in respective governments.” 

The 7th session of the East African Procurement Forum will be hosted by the Government of Kenya and in particular the Public Procurement Oversight Authority.