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The limitations of poverty-centered/scarcity approaches to underdevelopment

The story of the hospital in Gokwe North below reveals a few things about the procurement process in Zimbabwe and political decentralization. The government does not necessarily perform optimally even when resources are provided. Multilayered bureaucracy frustrates in-house procurement processes at the district level. Excess bureaucracy is correlated with poor time and resource management.
This story adds to our understanding of a source of underdevelopment and public waste. That is, as the case of Gokwe North shows, when resource abundance leads to unnecessary duplicated public actions, development is delayed. Better strategic planning might have cut time spent “going back and forth” and helped open the hospital on the due date.
One of the fascinating aspects of procurement is its ability to highlight the limitations of poverty-centered/scarcity approaches to underdevelopment. Instead, at times, an abundance trap, rather than a scarcity trap, perpetuates underdevelopment. S.N. Nyeck

AllAfrica.com December 6, 2010

The need to comply with State Procurement Board procedures has resulted in the construction of a district hospital in Gokwe North lagging behind schedule. Government allocated US$600 000 for the project. Principal director in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Dr Christopher Tapfumaneyi said this when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare last week.

He had been asked why the Ministry was taking long to fully use funds allocated to it by Treasury. Dr Tapfumaneyi said: “The issue of absorption is mainly to do with problems in procurement. “For example, we have a district hospital in Gokwe North and US$600 000 was allocated for its completion and by mid of this year this hospital should have been opened. “However, the procurement authorities keep having us go back and forth with regards to specific and specialised equipment. “The problems with the procurement authorities have always affected us especially where capital projects are concerned.” Dr Tapfumaneyi said they were consulting the procurement board on a way forward. Read more