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Africa's Public Procurement & Entrepreneurship Research Initiative – APPERI

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Margaret Thatcher, public procurement pioneer and advocate?


Spend Matters

By Peter Smith

April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, who died today, was the United Kingdom’s most important politician of the last 50 years. She will be remembered for both her domestic leadership, as she turned round what seemed like a country in inexorable decline through the 1970s, and her role in foreign policy, from the Falklands to supporting Reagan in the “defeat” of the USSR.

But she can also take some credit as one of the key founding fathers (mothers?) of professional public sector procurement. Under her period of office as Prime Minister, 1979 – 90, we saw major advances in procurement throughout the public sector.  As David Smith, Commercial Director at the Department of Work and Pensions, CIPS President last year and someone who was one of the pioneers of public procurement himself, said to us today:

“She was really the first Prime Minister in the UK to take seriously the whole concept that government spending needed to be efficient and effective. She instigated the first government procurement review in 1984, which really led to the Treasury Central Unit on Procurement being formed, more senior procurement staff in departments, and eventually OGC, ERG and all the focus we’ve seen since on public sector procurement”.

She also led the drive to involve the private sector more in the delivery of government services. Now, just like the more divisive side of her achievements on the economic front (miners’ strike et al), you might look either positively or negatively at “compulsory competitive tendering” and “market testing” as the beginning of the whole outsourcing boom and greater private sector involvement in public services.

But if you remember the days of the local authority works’ departments, and their total lack of any customer or VFM focus (and often a dollop of corruption to go alongside that), then it’s hard to argue against her view that competition and procurement had to be taken more seriously if the taxpayer was to receive value for money for an ever-increasing investment.

And as well as being arguably the inventor of public sector outsourcing, it was under her leadership that the first serious Procurement Directors started appearing in government departments. I did my stint as a government CPO not long after she’d moved on, but her influence was still clear in the approach of Ministers like  Peter Lilley and Michael Heseltine, with their support for further innovative procurement initiatives around outsourcing and PFI for instance.

As David Smith said today,

“Whatever you think of her politics, she was a friend of the profession, and a genuine pioneer in understanding the importance of the role in the public sector. Many of the things we take for granted now in public procurement started because of her”.

RIP Baroness Thatcher.

SA pioneers malaria breakthrough


Southern Times

By Gabriel Manyati

August 31, 2012

Johannesburg – A drug that has the potential to treat malaria has been pioneered by researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa.

It is the first time a potential cure has been developed on African soil.

New malaria drugs are urgently needed, as there is there is growing resistance to existing treatments and no effective vaccine to protect people from infection.

Malaria is a huge killer in many other parts of the continent: one in four child deaths in Africa south of the Sahara is due to malaria; and the disease reduces the region’s GDP by an estimated US$12 billion a year.

In South Africa, malaria killed 89 people and affected another 9 866 last year, according to the Department of Health.

Malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, with children and pregnant women being the most susceptible to it.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 300 million acute cases of malaria globally each year.

And now a potential breakthrough has been made in South Africa.

“This is truly a proud day for African science and African scientists. Our team is hopeful that the compound will emerge from rigorous testing as an extremely effective medicine for malaria,” said Professor Kelly Chibale, the founder and director of the UCT’s Drug Development and Discovery Centre (H3-D).

It has been hailed as evidence that South Africa is pioneering advancements in the medical field.

The candidate drug, from a class of compounds called aminopyridines, was identified by a team led by Prof Kelly Chibale, working in collaboration with the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).

The candidate drug, called MMV390048, has so far only been tested on rodents but the results are promising: it appears to be stable and safe, is effective against a variety of strains of the malaria parasite, and requires only a single dose to cure the animals of malaria, Prof Chibale said.

A single-dose cure would be ideal, because it would do away with the problem of people not finishing a course of treatment. If patients stop taking medication because they feel well again but before the parasite has been killed, it gives the parasite an opportunity to develop resistance to the drug.

The drug stays in the body for a long time, preventing regrowth of the parasite, which means it has the potential to block transmission of the parasite from one person to another, he said.

The compound has been patented, and research into its effects on malaria-infected rodents was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in March.

It has been selected by MMV’s scientific advisory committee for further clinical research. The next step will be to test its safety in a small group of healthy human volunteers in a phase one clinical trial.

The aim is to produce a drug that costs less than US$1 a day, so that it will be affordable to Africans, said Dr Leslie Street, head of medicinal chemistry and principal research officer at H3-D.

Even if all goes well with the clinical research, a new drug could still be three to five years down the road, he cautioned.

It is not clear at this stage whether the phase one trial will be carried out in South Africa, said Richard Gordon, regional representative for MMV, as there is limited local capacity to do this highly-specialised work.

Further work is also needed to identify a suitable company to manufacture MMV390048 in suitable quantities for the clinical trials.

Prof Chibale and his colleagues worked with scientists from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation at Australia’s Monash University and India’s Syngene to home in on the candidate drug.

Their work was given a kick-start by researchers at Griffith University in Australia, who screened about six million compounds to identify the aminopyradine series from which MMV390048 was isolated.

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