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Public procurement role on corporate social responsibility

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Given the size of the public sector procurement market in relation to the flip side of the private sector, it is imperative that the government uses the public procurement system to promote social corporate responsibility.

Report by Nyasha Chizu

While individual organisations in the private sector have capacity to force suppliers to restrain from use of child labour, forcing workers to work excessive hours, paying workers less than a living wage, gender equality and other forms of discrimination and exploitation of both society and the environment, public procurement is the thump card for promoting social corporate responsibility.

The government is the regulator, performing procurement activities and at the same time, consumer of private sector output thereby participating in a bigger way in business market when we compare with the private sector.

This provides opportunity for public procurement to stimulate social responsibility and corporate accountability.

The government can empower the public procurement to link social responsibility with procurement processes.

The regulatory function of the government is capable of defining the minimum standards for business that is embedded within the legal framework.

The public procurement laws can be adjusted to include social and environmental considerations in the public procurement policies for the benefit of ordinary citizens.

This will make it mandatory for accounting officers to insist on evaluation criterion with capacity to measure social and environmental responsibility of suppliers.

Adjusting the law to evaluate social and environmental responsibility of suppliers facilitates public sector agencies that are responsible for spending the national budget, to stimulate companies, as they process their purchases, to drive social and environmental responsibilities.

In light of the size of public sector budgets earlier discussed, suppliers who are serious shall engage an agenda to drive social and environmental improvement systems and operations in response to public sector demand.

The downstream effects to suppliers as they try to comply with the law, inevitably force them to partner government in improving social and environmental responsibility.

The private sector suppliers of late have been playing cat-and-mouse game with responsible authorities such as the environmental management agency in management of the ills of poor environment management.

The challenge with the agency is the absence of a system that is all encompassing, involving the public sector, who is the major buyer, to implementing proactive measures to enforce social and environmental responsibility in the supply chain management system.

Suppliers will inevitably partner with social and environmental management agencies in the country rather than the current cat and mouse game at the peril of citizenry socio environment.

The public sector procurement can also play the role of endorsing social and environmental policies that meet policies set.

This is achieved and complimented by the tripartite role of the government in the supply chain as a regulator, procurer and consumer.

Ethics will be enshrined in the supply chain management system by eliminating uncompromising practices in relationships, actions and communication.

Business will refrain from activities that promote conflict of interest between personal interest and business interest that include profit maximization against environmental degradation.

Confidentiality in business relationships shall be enhanced and positive supplier relationships that yield reciprocal agreements achieved from a competitive procurement process, that promote environmental management in upstream procuring activities shall be achieved.

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