15 October 2012 | Anna Reynolds
African governments should work together and pool procurement systems to develop more efficient and transparent public services.
This was the message given to delegates attending the Commonwealth Public Procurement Network (CPPN) conference in Tanzania last week, which examined the reforms taking place in public financial and procurement systems across African Commonwealth countries.
The CPPN was set up by the Commonwealth Secretariat in 2006 to provide a platform for policy makers and regulators to recommend changes to governments to ensure best value delivery of public services.
Marcel Holder Robinson, acting adviser of public expenditure management at the Commonwealth Secretariat, told SM: “Governments can no longer view procurement as an administrative function, but rather a strategic and political one.”
The conference looked at member countries that have implemented new procurement structures, such as in Tanzania where a procurement complaints body and a board of purchasing and supply professionals have been set up under the control of the public procurement policy division in the Ministry of Finance.
The CPPN also identified the constraints and benefits of countries shifting from a largely legal-based procurement system to a more up-to date public procurement system involving performance management and accountability structures, which has taken place in Ghana.
“While embracing the values of a sound procurement system, there was consensus among the delegates on the merits of emerging trends such as a sustainable approach to procurement, e-procurement and collaborative procurement to achieve greater value for targeted segments as well as for society at large,” said Anund Mudhoo, chair of the CPPN.
A review was carried out into what steps are being taken to address green and socially responsible procurement. A panel asked whether countries are becoming a dumping ground for poor quality products and if enough is being done to prevent corruption and abuse of employment and health and safety laws.
Additional areas of discussion were women’s participation in public contracting in South Africa and using IT for improved purchasing processes.
One outcome of the conference has been the development of an online community, which has been built by the Commonwealth Secretariat enabling countries to share information and advice.
The conference also encouraged the benefits of pooled procurement systems in sub-regions. It advised collaboration on areas such as price negotiation, quality assurance and supplier prequalification.
The CPPN called for more current data on member countries’ reforms and has begun working on an initiative to address this matter.
The network is also working to establish relationships with organisations that hold similar interests and collaborate to design programmes to help countries implementing procurement reforms.
The conference was attended by more than 140 senior procurement officials from over 20 commonwealth countries, including Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Swaziland, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda and Zambia, as well as representatives from CIPS Africa, the African Capacity Building Foundation and the Centre for the Development of Enterprise.