Paradigm shift needed for Zim-Asset

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The drivers for transforming public procurement into a strategic profession have been the desire by governments to achieve value for money in the acquisition of public goods and services from private sector suppliers.

Purchasing and Supply with Nyasha Chizu

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports confirm that most public procurement activities are administrative at the expense of strategic operations.

Requirements for any employment to be a profession include availability of adequate tools to facilitate performance, some level of delegation and decentralisation, and availability of ethical guidance.

Procurement like any other profession requires that personnel engaged is equipped with adequate tools for managing the procurement function contrary to the status quo, with abundance of tools merely limited to the procurement process.

Driven by the considerations for value for money, governments are increasing efforts into rationalisation and increasing efficiency of procurement.

The government’s 2013 economic blue-print of the Zim-Asset emphasises accountability and responsibility of public officers to improve public service delivery.

Public service delivery will only be achievable with appropriate restructuring of the procurement systems in light of Zim-Asset. The public procurement systems, as a priority, must encompass procurement planning and contract management to achieve Zim-Asset objectives.

Procurement staff in both the public and private sector require adequate tools for improving planning and management including informed decision-making process.

New technologies need adoption to monitor procurement activities through price surveillance techniques and supply market intelligence that assists in the process of rational decision making that provides value for money.

Emphasis of the Zim-Asset has been on efficiency and the government is faced with a tough task of strengthening public procurement systems for efficacious catalyst in the process.

Most countries have adopted a decentralised approach of procurement activities as a step towards professionalism.

The benefits in most cases had been hard to come by due to the misalignment of procurement activities coupled by the lack of procurement skills, experience and qualifications in the public sectors as there have been no meaningful efforts to strengthen this important sector in the past.

In the process, integrity in public procurement is continuously being lost.

Procurement professionals in all sectors are now expected to assume procurement planning and contract management duties in addition to the traditional role of acquisition process.

This requires them to gain new skills, that is, not only related to the specialised and limited knowledge of public procurement, but also finance, contract and risk management.

Another important pillar in procurement for both public and private sector has been ‘ethical guidance’ to strengthen integrity in the procurement process.

The rights and wrongs of procurement need to be clearly defined to control conflict of interests and more generally, corruption in procurement.The challenge has always been the means for separation of duties between officials to avoid conflict of interest situations balanced with “firewalled” co-ordinated management of budgets, procurement process and contract and project management.

A paradigm shift in public procurement management is indispensable if the Zim-Asset objectives are to see the light of the day. Procurement positions require relevant skills, experience and qualifications.

The procurement positions must be appropriately aligned to support the role of accounting officers in performing their mandate as outlined in the Zim-Asset blue-print at organisational level.

Nyasha Chizu is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: chizunyasha@yahoo.com; nyashachizu@harleyreed.com