ACCORDING to the International Research Centre, the economic significance of public procurement which is the purchase of goods, works or services by public institutions is critical for economies of developing countries such as Zimbabwe because it accounts for more than 30 percent of their gross domestic product.
Public procurement starts with needs assessment and projects identification followed by procurement planning and budgeting.
The tender is then advertised and interested individuals and companies can submit their bids and proposals to supply the required goods, works or services.
Bids that meet the price and non-price criteria specified in the bidding documents usually win the tender.
Alternatively, the contract is awarded to the bidder that has offered the most economically advantageous tender.
Usually there is stiff competition on high-valued government contracts and bidders try to influence the procurement process in order to get the contract.
The procurement process then becomes vulnerable to integrity risks where undue influence, conflicts of interest and fraud take place.
A survey carried out by United Nations Development Business Online in 2014 revealed that there is limited access to information on opportunities.
Most organisations also lack the capacity to participate in cumbersome and costly bidding processes.
Those challenges echo the voices of companies around the world that participate in public procurement markets.
It is against this background that development partners such as The World Bank and African Development Bank have set procurement requirements as a condition precedent for development aid.
The clarion call to procurement specialists is that they need to be transparent in the tendering and contract awarding process.
This is crucial to ensure efficiency and accountability in the use of taxpayers’ money.
It is encouraging that government is undertaking reforms of the public procurement system with the support of development partners.
A new Bill in line with the provisions of Section 315 of the Constitution is envisaged as government realises that public procurement is critical in the achievement of its priorities and objectives of strengthening governance and accountability in the management of public resources while improving public services delivery.
A 2011 Country Integrated Fiduciary Assessment identified lack of procurement capacity in the public sector as contributing to poor public service delivery.
It is heartening that current reforms are seeking to transform the State Procurement Board from being a regulator and operator to a purely regulatory and standard setting body that shall oversee decentralised procurement by procurement entities, creation of procurement management units and professionalisation of the procurement function.
Denias Kagande is a public procurement specialist contactable on +263 712001002 or email firstname.lastname@example.org