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On simplifying public procurement

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th September 2012 01:37 PM

Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) celebrates 10 years this year. Cornelia Sabiiti, PPDA Executive Director spoke to David Mugabe about the journey of the 10 year reforms Qn: Take us through the reforms process in the last 10 years

On simplifying public procurement

Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) celebrates 10 years this year. Cornelia Sabiiti, PPDA Executive Director spoke to David Mugabe about the journey of the 10 year reforms Qn: Take us through the reforms process in the last 10 years

Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) celebrates 10 years this year. Cornelia Sabiiti, PPDA Executive Director spoke to David Mugabe about the journey of the 10 year reforms Qn: Take us through the reforms process in the last 10 years 

A: The reforms started in late 1990s at that time we had a central tender board. By then government was growing bigger and there were delays. The actual thrust was to ensure we are efficient and are able to deliver services to the people. The reforms culminated in 2003 with the enactment of the PPDA Act and the local government Act.

What we have now is a decentralised system which is a big departure from the centralised system. In 2003, very few Ugandans were aware of what public procurement is.

But today the public is demanding accountability on public expenditure. Public procurement remains a strategic function since over 55% of Government expenditure annually is expended through the procurement process.

There have been several successes; we now have a young cadre of professionals. We are happy to note that civil society and media are picking a lot of interest in public procurement. They are able to discuss and expose to the public procurement and disposal matters very authoritatively.

A number of concerned citizens from the general public also raise concerns on the procurement and disposal process directly to the Authority which we investigate.

Therefore we now have many partners on board who can monitor the process. We are also encouraging local providers form joint ventures or participate as sub-contractors to obtain experience through transfer of knowledge and technology.

It is planned that the proposed amendments will accord local bidders preferences when competing with foreign firms so that they are able to compete effectively.

There are general complaints about high value procurement projects like Karuma and Pensions Towers not being done properly?

Since the procurement reforms began way back in the 1990s, the volume, value and complexity of public procurement, has grown significantly.

There are increasing complaints with regard to the high value procurements. The issue of capacity of public officers to manage high value and complex procurements is now emerging as a key issue of concern.

It is imperative that there is focus on the development of appropriate capacity for all the public officers under the different procurement

structures but also as Government, we have to ensure that we not only have the right personnel but they are well paid. We have also had some high value projects where we do not have many local companies competing due to technical and financial capacity constraints and, this is also one area we have to work on.

From the reforms of the last 10 years, how much has PPDA saved Government through proper procurement processes?

The role of the Authority requires that our recommendations arising from our findings are passed on the relevant competent authorities for implementation.

We share our findings from audits and investigations key stakeholders that include the Auditor General and Inspectorate of the Government and the Authority is also a member of the Inter-agency Forum on Anti- corruption which is under the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity and comprises of the Government oversight and enforcement institutions.

The Authority has been pro-active by stopping suspect procurement processes that we feel may result in loses to government for instance the bicycle scam that was investigated and is currently before the courts of law. We are therefore, part of the overall contribution to the whole fight against corruption.

Can PPDA be a part of procurement other than coming at the end when the process is almost complete and raising the red flag like it was with the Pensions Towers and Karuma power project?

The objective of the procurement reforms was to establish an independent regulator who cannot participate in the decision making process under the decentralised Entities.

The Authority therefore sets the standards to be followed, builds the capacity of the different stakeholders and monitors compliance to the set standards.

The Authority also reserve the right to intervene in the procurement or disposal process where there are complaints and may halt the process although we usually give a chance to the accounting officer to address the issues raised since they have overall responsibility for the procurement and disposal function.

You say your dream is to have a self-regulating system, what have been the bigger challenges in the last 10 years? There have been a concerns that the procurement process is time consuming and that you procure an item through public procurement, it is more expensive than if you go to the open market.

The big challenge is lack of proper procurement planning. The Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to Treasury issued a circular to all Accounting Officers advising them to initiate their procurements in time and only wait to sign the contracts when funds are released.

This is aimed at addressing the low absorption in Government and ensuring that Entities implement their procurement plans. The other issue is that Bidders inflate costs due to overheads they have to meet such as bid securities and they also anticipate late payments so it may be difficult to obtain a competitive market rate.

But still we are saying that the margin between the market rate and that from public procurement should not be too high. Under the amendments to the PPDA Act, Accounting Officers will be require to undertake market surveys and ask relevant questions; whether there is reason why a price of the best bidder has exceeded market price. If a contract signed is way beyond the market price, that will be an offence.

In the next 10 years, where do we see in public procurement? At the moment, the public procurement and disposal system is highly regulated, we want to see accounting officers or entities accountable and using internal controls and systems to ensure efficiency, transparency and able to monitor and deliver services.

At the moment, PPDA acts like policemen. In future we want a selfregulating mechanism. We would like to see the Authority more as a facilitator. We would like to see increased levels

of compliance for instance only 27% of procurement cases audited last financial year were found to be satisfactory. We are also looking at more innovative approaches like the use of electronic procurement to promote transparency because it makes the process less vulnerable to corruption.

We are also partnering with civil society organizations to monitor projects and thus strengthen contract management and ensure effective service delivery.

IGG and PPDA strive to ensure compliance

In ensuring that there is compliance and value for money in procurement procedures, the PPDA works closely with the Criminal Investigations Department and Inspector General of Government to hold officers of public offices. In this case, procurement offices are accountable in case of any financial loss or abuse of office. 

The Inspectorate of Government was first established under the Inspectorate of Government Statute, 1988 as a lead institution that was given the mandate to eliminate corruption in Uganda. With the enactment of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda Click to view

On simplifying public procurement

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