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Autonomous procurement decisions fundamental to curb fraud

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Apportioning responsibility of procurement decision-making to buyers and demanding equivalent accountability is paramount in fighting procurement fraud. This, however, is not enough. Procurement decision-making is polarised in most institutions. It is a fact that most procurement decisions are not done by buyers. Buyers take a peripheral role of advising rather than deciding. This is unlike other professions where the incumbent officer is responsible for decisions within his line of duty and is therefore made accountable for actions. In simple terms, procurement personnel do not have autonomy in their function.

Report by Nyasha Chizu

Autonomy is to be directed by considerations, desires, conditions and characteristics that are not simply imposed externally upon one, but are part of what can somehow be considered one’s authentic self. The opposite of autonomy is being guided by forces external to self and which one cannot authentically embrace and is synonymous with the procurement decision-making process that is equivalent to highest level of oppression.

Autonomy in this sense is an irrefutable value. It relates to issues previously discussed of accountability and responsibility. Some philosophers suggest that moral communities are composed of two type of actors, responsible actors and accountable actors. Responsibility in this case is viewed as having a higher level of autonomy by nature. This implies that the actor is able to self-oversee, self-regulate, and self-motivate responsive adjustments to maintain adherence with appropriate moral standards of action. The actor who is autonomous can be equated to a bimetallic strip that is used to regulate temperature. There is no external influence that is required to maintain the required standards of morality.

Buyers need to be afforded the freedom in procurement decision-making. Freedom implies lack of barriers to their action that are in any way external to their wills. The systems, laws and best practices are the only external influence that must be available to guide their actions. This self imposition of moral law is autonomy. Moral autonomy is therefore associated normally with professional status.

This requires that buyers are of a certain level of expertise. Expertise is derived from relevant qualifications and training. It is therefore important to note that one cannot be regarded a morally responsible buyer if that person lacks professional credentials. This is the motivation in most institutions that drive external factors to influence procurement decisions. The buyers are not competent and therefore, they cannot be trusted to make decisions with a business sense. A responsible buyer is one who can make choices according to one’s own insights without the need of control of others.

On the other hand, the accountable actor is held to external oversight, regulation and mechanism of punishment aimed to externally motivate responsive adjustment in order to maintain adherence with appropriate moral standards of action.
Accountability and responsibility are the consequential and merit position of moral responsibility.

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

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