Tag Archives: public procurement

Curbing Public Procurement Fraud in Africa

Are we making any progress curbing public procurement fraud in Africa?  The consensus seems to be very little, although there are pockets of not quite excellence, but at least some promise.

The Anti-corruption Agencies

10 years ago the World Bank reviewed the activities of anti-corruption agencies active in Africa and came to the conclusion that they were not particularly effective, despite some significant funding.  They concluded that African governments, in general:

  • lack the know-how or the political will to control corruption and procurement fraud
  • want just to be seen to be taking some action, however ineffectual it is in practice

In reality, if a study was undertaken today, the results would be about the same. This is despite efforts by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Transparency International (TI) and Corruption Watch and others.

TI’s arm in Ghana, GII, says that their “vision is to make Ghana a corruption-free country in all spheres of human endeavour, where people and institutions act with integrity, accountability and transparency”.  Worthy sentiments, but is it just rhetoric?

The OECD tells us that “public procurement remains the government activity most vulnerable to waste, fraud and corruption due to the size of the financial flows involved”.  On average, 12-15 per cent of a country’s GDP is spent on public procurement. Some of this is wasted. However, there are no reliable statistics of how much money is lost to procurement fraud and corruption across Africa, as much of it goes unreported.

Kenya’s Procurement Woes

Despite an active but bureaucratic watchdog in Kenya: The Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA), public procurement fraud and collusion in tenders is alive and well, and some say endemic. Many of the reported high value failures are in transport and logistics including railways and ports, and particularly in education.

PPOA has as its tag line “transforming procurement”. It has a laundry list of tender appeals awaiting attention and looks like it is losing the battle. Ask Haier Electrical or Hewlett Packard who together won a case against the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in 2014 involving a project of more than US$400 million.

PwC says in a newly published report that one in every three Kenyan business leaders reported procurement-related fraud in the past two years, making it the most common type of economic crime in the country. The report faults Kenya’s procurement processes as not being robust enough to guarantee integrity at all levels.

The Politics of Preference – Women, Youth and Local Sourcing 

There is growing disquiet about preferential procurement rules and guidelines like those legislated in countries such as Nigeria.  The Nigerian government wants to help the local economy by developing emerging businesses, but new legislation on local sourcing may have the opposite effect if it is prescriptive.  Will “Made in Nigeria” allow suppliers to charge more for inferior products and services and will government buyers somehow be tempted to offer guarantees – for a fee or other benefit?

Initiatives being taken to tackle the scourge

The World Bank’s new procurement framework will allow it to better respond to the needs of client countries in Africa, while preserving robust procurement standards throughout Bank-supported projects. Since they have a portfolio of about US$42 billion in over 1,800 projects in 172 countries, this is significant.

There’s also some good news coming out of South Africa.  The Chief Procurement Officer, Kenneth Brown, has kept a low profile. Behind the scenes, his team are quietly reviewing all tenders over R10m for compliance to the rules and are looking for opportunities for cost savings.

On an expenditure of R500 billion annually, its target of savings of R25 billion looks achievable.

The State’s fragmented spending practices are now being centralised to reduce waste and get more leverage through technology. They have set their sights on some key categories: travel at R10 billion per annum, ICT, construction and leases.

The new online eTenders portal launches in April 2016 with a modest maintenance cost of just R16,000 a month. It introduces much needed transparency and will save a staggering R400 million a year that the government spends on advertising the tenders in newspapers.

Big Ideas in UK & Public Procurement

Social value and collaboration – just the tip of the iceberg for the professionals in UK and public procurement.

Ahead of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 this Thursday, we are taking a look at the key issues facing procurement in the coming years. We have asked experts and influencers in our community to share their Big Ideas on the themes we will be discussing on the day.

The concept of social value is one that has gained more traction, driven by public procurement professionals across the world. It also links heavily into the idea that procurement as a whole needs to collaborate and work together, something that we’ll also be discussing at Big Ideas.

We spoke to some of our UK-based professionals in the Procurious community to understand the big ideas in the UK and public procurement.

Helen Mackenzie, Head of Procurement, Scottish Local Government

Power Profiles - Helen MackenzieAs those of us working in or with public bodies across the world move forward through our journey of procurement reform, our challenge is now shifting from one where tackling corruption, compliance and procedures are key to one where we’re must add value whenever we can.

At the front end of the process, there’s been some innovative work looking at commissioning services using open problems. Barcelona and Stockholm have had some great results by shifting from specifying the service they wanted, to specifying the problem they wanted to solve.

Adding social value to public procurement contracts continues to be expected by policy makers. In Scotland, we’re including requirements to ensure fair work practices, including the payment of the living wage, and community benefit clauses, which have been used to create added value. For instance 1,000s of apprenticeships have been created as part of our contracts.

Ensuring our communities are involved at the heart of our procurement processes is perhaps the holy grail of public procurement. It’s something which isn’t easy to do, it’s going to require us to stretch our stakeholder engagement skills. The prize will be contracts which target resources where they are needed, people who feel public spending is actually being targeted at them and outcomes which will deliver real improvements in people’s lives.

If we’re successful in shifting our focus away from what we’ve always bought, to what we need to solve with community engagement and social value at the heart of what we do, we’ll certainly secure great contracts and we’ll make the savings we need to deliver in the process.

Jane Lynch, Lecturer, Cardiff Business School

Jane LynchLeading organisations today redesign processes for improving customer experience. This, they argue, leads to more effective business operations.

However, this may lead to initial process inefficiencies (i.e. higher process costs). Who and what should drive process improvement for our business? Is it the supply chain, the organisation’s strategy or is it all about the customer?

Chris Cliffe, Director, CJC Procurement Ltd

Power Profiles - Chris CliffeBig Ideas and innovation in procurement is certainly needed. However, not at the expense of the basics.

Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and apply it to procurement. As a profession, and as individual professionals, we cannot ‘self-actualise’ until we have satisfied the more fundamental needs of our roles. 

As a professional collective, we need to get a lot better at collaborating as individuals, and as a profession, to ensure that the ‘physiological’ and ‘safety’ needs are met, which in our scenario is the basics such as spend analysis, market knowledge, proficiency at transacting procurement processes (particularly the regulated public sector processes).

With that foundation satisfied, we can move on to the ‘Love & Belonging’ and ‘Esteem’ needs, which for us is where many of us still struggle. Being invited to the top table at our organisations as true business partners remains a consistent challenge. 

At this level, we need to be more proactive in demonstrating and promoting contract management and supplier relationship management achievements, not just (but also) procurement process cost savings and force our way in to the strategic conversations. 

From this point we can dream of ‘self-actualisation’.  All contract spend is compliant and being managed well.  Our deep market knowledge is maintained, valued and collaborated on with peers and suppliers alike.  We are highly valued by our executives, and the ‘go-to’ people for business advice and guidance. 

Many of us can only dream of that utopia, and unless we work together on the basics, it will only remain a dream and no amount of retweets will improve our futures.

There’s still time to register for Big Ideas 2016. Visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

South African Public Procurement – A Work in Progress

Despite some leaps forward in recent years, South African public procurement is still suffering from the same issues.

“Despite the reform processes in public procurement and the employment of Supply Chain Management (SCM) as a strategic tool, there are predicaments in South African public procurement practices”.

This was one of the observations in a report by two leading academics at the University of South Africa in 2012. They noted, “For example, there is non-compliance with procurement and SCM-related legislation and policies as well as tender irregularities.”

You could say that not a lot has changed, South African public procurement still has some predicaments.

The Last Few Years

Since 2012, we have seen the appointment of a Chief Procurement Officer, Kenneth Brown, who is responsible for overseeing the entire SCM operation. His role is to ensure that the procurement of goods, services and construction works is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective, and in line with the Constitution and all relevant legislation.

This in itself is a big ask as there are many laws, guidelines and regulations to adhere to. His portfolio includes central and provincial governments, municipalities and state-owned enterprises.

A new initiative is an e-tender portal and the creation of a centralised database of approved suppliers. This is a noble effort to fight corruption and make government procurement more efficient and cost-effective. The system, where all tenders are advertised, is also designed to electronically verify a supplier’s tax and black employment equity status, as well as to uncover any government employee attempting to do business with the state.

In the 2014-2015 tax year, the public sector spent >R500-billion on goods, services and infrastructure. The Government itself has admitted that at least R30-billion of this was lost to corruption. In 2015 the Treasury took a bold step of undertaking a Supply Chain Management Review on the status of SCM in South Africa and found it wanting.  This was the first attempt at assessing the situation since 2004.

The 2015 Supply Chain Management Review

The Treasury should receive kudos for highlighting its own shortcomings and imperfections, and providing some glimmer of hope of improvement.

The Review acknowledged that:

  • SCM across South Africa is highly fragmented. This makes it difficult for government to obtain maximum value from the purchasing of goods and services.
  • It needs to improve skills, processes and systems which are critical for a well-functioning SCM system.
  • It is dogged by “constant allegations of corruption and inefficiency”.
  • Key problems are: inexperienced leaders, high staff turnover rates, confusion about roles and responsibilities, political interference and the red tape for small and medium businesses.

So what is the plan?  

The big plan is to replace all the legacy systems, more than 30, with just one. This will be an integrated financial management system (IFMS) which will include the central supplier database. This will make data mining possible, and will provide more transparency into bid awards, a concept that has not been well understood in government circles up to now.

The intention is to centralise government contracts for categories such as:

  • Banking services;
  • Information Communication Technology (ICT) services;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Consulting services;
  • Security services;
  • Air travel and accommodation;
  • School textbooks and stationery;
  • Healthcare equipment; and
  • Leased buildings.

Technology will take us part of the way

Investment in technology, especially an e-procurement solution, has the potential to improve SCM efficiency and effectiveness considerably. Currently, the different systems result in fragmented and unreliable data, inconsistent processes, varying compliance levels and ineffective results.

It is not straightforward though. South Africa has a complex and unique system of preferential procurement policies to protect and advance previously disadvantaged people. These variables have to be integrated into any decision making software.

The many challenges can be grouped into these categories:

  • managerial, compliance and monitoring issues
  • lack of knowledge, skills and capacity
  • inadequate control systems
  • fraud and corruption
  • fragmented spend and lack of transparency

Comparisons with other countries

South Africa is not alone in its aspirations to do better. The UK has just implemented the Public Contracts Regulations which adds another dimension and complexity to Government procurement in UK, and brings practice into line with European Union regulations. One objective is to make procurement across EU countries easier and increase transparency.

A bill was introduced recently to promote the appointment of a Chief Procurement Officer for the United States. However, it was not passed into law due to the start-up costs, despite projected savings of 10 times the investment. It just goes to show that even developed markets have their problems.