Purchasing, supply skills a must in training

Most organisations operate with purchasing and supply functions that are clerical.

From my personal assessment, the causes of non-recognition of purchasing and supply as strategic emanate from five key factors.

Historically, most individuals manning purchasing and supply functions were there by accident.

The function was relegation bay for non-performers from specific trades and included sick, injured and notorious employees demoted to stores and some worked their way to buying.

Most of them did not develop their purchasing and supply skills resulting in purchasing and stores departments manned by personnel without relevant qualifications.

Secondly, the positions are clerical in most organisations and do not pay well as other professions.

In order to survive, buyers subsidise their earnings from bribes that they solicit from suppliers. In our local language, it is said: “A goat grazes within the confines of the rope’s length.”

To that effect, most buyers are not keen to go on leave.

This implies that organisational architecture can promote unethical practices in purchasing and supply function and there is urgent need to change the status quo.

Thirdly, our education system also contributed to less recognition of the purchasing and supply profession.

It is only recently that local universities recognised purchasing and supply as a profession that could be studied at a high level like other qualifications.

The gratifying fact is that even the University of Zimbabwe is developing an undergraduate and post-graduate degree in purchasing and supply and this development will certainly change the perception of the profession.

Lack of internationally recognised procurement standards to regulate procurement process compounds the issue.

International institutions such as the World Bank, Africa Development Bank and others have developed “best practices” in procurement, but with limited application.

Nationally, countries have public procurement regulations to control the use of public funds.

These national laws are not uniform and result in non existence of international procurement standard.

Whilst it is acknowledged that sovereign nations want to use procurement as a development tool that they opt to have direct control of, the lack of standards to govern the profession makes issues of ethics, accountability, responsibility and morality unenforceable.

There has been proliferation of adverts for certifying procurement professionals.

The puzzle is, to what or whose standards is the certification based on? Procurement standards have capacity to address national and global challenges of the quality of personnel, systems and processes in procurement in addition to public procurement laws.

Nationally, most professions regarded critical have a self regulatory framework to promote professionalism. Issues such as moral and ethical conduct are difficult to govern using public laws and hence, Zimbabwe recognised the need to compel professionals in the medical, engineering, law and accounting fraternity to use their professional associations to enforce issues of the law, integrity, accountability, responsibility, moral and ethical behaviour.

To ensure sustenance of business in Zimbabwe and the world in general, costs and revenues have to be managed simultaneously.

It is therefore critical to recognise that in purchasing and supply can arise knowledge, innovation, resources and assets. Specialisation need to be promoted in order to achieve maximum benefit from this business activity.

Given the complexity of purchasing and supply function as discussed in earlier articles, the legal system would need to enshrine elements of integrity that promote professionalism.

The development of procurement professionals and procurement standards built from international best practices will form a basis for procurement audits.

The need to regulate the purchasing and supply profession cannot be ignored in order to stimulate the Zimbabwe economic development.

l Nyasha Chizu is the chairman of CIPS Zimbabwe branch writing in his personal capacity.

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