If we are to minimise procurement fraud and corruption, some identifiable person must be held to account. In most cases, procurement decisions are made by more than one individual and some institutions use procurement committees.
Report by Nyasha Chizu
In the event of a mishap in a procurement decision, who is accountable? This is critical given the fact that the committee is built by members from different functions.
From the previous article, responsibility and accountability are often confused. The two words are admittedly linked although they are not identical by definition or implication.
A procurement committee will be responsible for a procurement decision, but might not be held accountable for their decision and it’s a known system problem.
Accountability is the readiness or preparedness to give an explanation or justification for one’s judgments, intentions, acts and omissions when called upon to do so.
Taking an X-ray of the procurement decision making in many institutions — both private and public sector — the supposed to be decision-maker, the buyer or procurement committee is not accountable for procurement decisions. The best they do is to recommend, that is giving some form of professional direction on a procurement decision. That recommendation is more of an opinion that is subject to acceptance and rejection by a superior body.
Ultimately, accountability is, therefore, shifted to a superior body within the organisation by definition, which is not directly responsible for such decisions. A professional void of accountability is thereby created.
This is critical given the fact that accountability is also the readiness to have one’s actions judged by others and where appropriate, accept responsibility for errors, misjudgments and negligence and recognition for competency, conscientiousness, excellence and wisdom.
In the case of most procurement decisions, the procurement committee cannot be held accountable because its role is limited to recommendations that are subject to an approval. The one who approves procurement recommendations cannot also be held accountable in most cases because his judgment was based on someone’s opinion.
This issue is critical for the fact that there are some prerequisites for someone to be held accountable. The person must functionally and/or morally responsible for the action. Secondly, some harm should have occurred due to that action. The fundamental one is that the responsible person must not have legitimate excuse for the action.
Given the aforementioned, it is critical in procurement to hold the person responsible for the procurement decision accountable for such to reduce issues of fraud and corruption.
In simple terms, procurement staff must lead in procurement decisions with technical staff supporting them to enhance accountability and responsibility in procurement decision-making.
Sadly, procurement staff is given secretarial roles in procurement decisions when by role and function, they are the ones responsible and ultimately, accountability is evaded.
This will only be attainable if procurement is given some autonomy, but appropriate support from technical staff.
My hope is that procurement in Zimbabwe would have that autonomy in both private and public sector.
The autonomy in making procurement decisions will result in change in the procurement-related environment and that will certainly apportion accountability to individuals responsible for procurement decisions, the buyers.
Nyasha Chizu is a Fellow of CIPS and the CIPS Zimbabwe branch chairman writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: email@example.com