Procurement: a business process that requires good governance

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Of all occupations, both in public and private sector, buyers are associated with receiving bribes.

At one of my former employment, the occupation was not highly regarded, all buyers could afford cellphones when they were introduced in Zimbabwe and had the luxury to operate contract lines that were synonymous with executives that time.

In the corridors, other staff members were suspicious and likened buyers to thieves. At one time, the procurement manager was put to task in a in a management meeting to explain the flamboyance of the buyers.

His saviour was arrogance, he advised the engineers to study procurement if they felt they were in the wrong profession.

All this elaborates that the procurement is susceptible to corruption.

Corruption and bribery have been prevalent in utilities, department of taxes, and the judiciary in addition to procurement. In all these sectors, bribery was more pervasive in public procurement according to an executive opinion by the World Bank in 2006.

This is because procurement is the major interface between the institution and commerce. In the public sector, it is the interface with the private sector actors posing a huge risk to the diversion of public funds for private gain.

Although the activity is highly marginalised in most organisations in Zimbabwe, it is a major economic activity of the government where corruption has high impact on tax payers’ money.

Recalling the recent Monetary Policy Statement, success of the budget was centred on effective public procurement. Finance minister Tendai Biti highlighted that problems in the public procurement were widespread including failure to plan and corruption.

Success of Zimbabwe’s critical sectors such as agriculture, mining and tourism could only be achieved if buyers employed are professional so that government can realise value for money in procurement activities.

After every transaction, a professional buyer must be satisfied that the opportunity cost concept is satisfied and the purchase made equal the financial outlay.

In the private sector, mis-procurement effects are a double-edged sword to the tax payers in that goods and services from the private sector will not be competitive whilst public service will be inefficient.

Corruption thrives in secrecy. Transparency and accountability have been recognised as key conditions for promoting integrity and preventing corruption in procurement.

Good governance that promotes administrative efficiency encompassing fair competition is necessary. In Zimbabwe, the grey areas of procurement are in the pre-bidding and post-bidding phases and the application for exemptions to competitive procedures.

This statement is supported by public reports of cancelled tenders such as one for NatPharm rapid diagnostic tests for malaria and Zesa’s $6 million compact fluorescent lamps. Design of tender’s specifications should provide for fair competition.

Contract management that includes invoice payments needs to be consistent with the contract.
In addition to transparency and accountability, positioning procurement strategically is paramount to prevent mis-procurement and minimising the potential of corruption that is rooted in procurement activities.

There is need to:

• Enshrine accountability, transparency and professionalism in the procurement in addition to procurement laws.
• Turn procurement into a strategic profession especially in the public sector since the effects of unprofessional procurement put a burden on tax payers.
• Enhance accountability in procurement by enacting a self regulated procurement council that all the buyers’ will be accountable to.

•Nyasha Chizu is a fellow of CIPS and CIPS Zimbabwe branch chairman writing in his personal capacity. Email: chizunyasha@yahoo.com