It has been a month since the launch of ProAct in Kampala, Uganda and it is great to see this community growing.
I would like to start a conversation with all of you and get a few reflections from a.
What are the 3 top public procurement issues that interest you most? and
What are 1-2 challenges or big questions that you may face in your daily work with public procurement?
Share them via this discussion, maybe some of us are interested in similar issues and also challenged in similar ways at work.
Here are mine:
-Contract/ Procurement Monitoring
-Transparency in eProcurement Systems
-Innovation for Procurement Reform
-How can we improve our learning across sectors (CSOs, academia, private, public, etc)?
Let me start with answering you on how we can improve learning across sectors. My feeling is that CSOs should do more ground work before criticizing the public sector especially. Some of the issues they bring out have been perfected by the past regimes where most of the senior officials in public service perfected most of the negative habits during the tenure of such regimes and as you know, one of the basis for promotion in public service is the number of years worked irrespective of the kind of work done in the past. It will take lots of time and money or even a generational change to get the envisaged change. However, we do need the CSOs since the regulators would require an enormous amount of funds to oversee the entire country - CSOs would be more effective in monitoring devolved funds as long as they also uphold the values of transparency and objectivity.
Private and public sectors can learn alot from each other. There is a perception that there are no opportunities for rent in the private sector but that is not true at all. Most private sector employees seek public offices with a belief that there exists opportunities for rent seeking in the public sector and one is likely to get away without getting caught. Contrary the current school of thought out there, the public sector has brought about lots of development in the procurement field and the private sector, especially the big consultancy firms, are more likely than not to hire procurement professionals from there as they establish their procurement think tanks/practice.
Academia is lacking to a great extent in the procurement field in Africa owing to the fact that the profession was not recognized for a very long time in the past. There has been a proliferation of procurement related courses fuelled by demand and the profit to be made as people seek to enhance their knowledge as well as comply with the requirements of being called a 'procurement professional'. There is need for research in procurement to identify best practices and make the necessary changes in good time for the benefits to accrue to spending of tax payers funds.
My challenges mirror yours in a way:
- Innovation for procurement reform - Lack of appreciation of the role research plays in improving service delivery.
- Procurement regulators are established with so much gusto but end up performing more like the predecessor departments they were in their respective ministries.
- Contract monitoring - lots of effort is put in the procurement process, but once concluded, interest fizzles out providing opportunities for so many things to go wrong in monitoring contract performance.