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Purchasing and supply: Understanding of country context is critical for reforms


Country context refers to the economic and political environment, the geography and the legal characteristics of a country. The reasons for reforms are not explicit in many cases and the country context is thereby paramount in the procurement reforms.

By Nyasha Chizu

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developmen (OECD) revealed that the desire for efficiency in procurement systems had been the major inspiration for reforms.

Due to non-availability of statistics on the pre-reforms and post reform era, it has been difficult to measure quantitatively the actual savings realised by reformed countries.

The other wider objectives of major reforms had been the desire to eradicate corruption and also the desire to synchronise with trade agreements such as Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) as in the case of Zimbabwe.

Economic context refers to the degree of development of a country. The size of the economy also determines the context of procurement.

It measures the rate of economic transition from command towards market economy. In most cases, developing countries would require a significant paradigm shift due to changing circumstances.

The environment might have shifted like in the case of Zimbabwe where there is massive need for infrastructure rehabilitation and expansion that would require participation by the private sector through public-private sector partnerships (PPPs).

Although there are provisions for PPPs in the current Procurement Act, the legal framework is proving to be inadequate.

Further on the economic context, the level of industrialisation of a country that require cooption of other systems such as e-Procurement to reduce procurement cycles and enhance transparency in tender systems.

Issues of sustainability on the economic and environmental front are pertinent. Procurement in the public sector needs to take into account economic sustainability where projects procurement has to demonstrate the business case.

On the other hand, procurement involves acquisition of natural resources that need to take into account exploitation of resources today with the future in mind.

On the political front, post-conflict states that include issues such as civil wars or economic isolation that affected Zimbabwe have an effect on infrastructure and resources.

Some countries from post-conflict states lack procurement skills and use of procurement agents might be the immediate solution to harness public procurement.

Geographical context assess issues such as country physical isolation as well as exposure to natural disasters. Geographical isolation affects sources of supply and has massive implications on the suitable procurement procedures.

Islands are the major affected and in most cases, they would have one source of supply. Access to sea ports or the case of Lesotho that is bordered by one country forces it to be dependent on South African for survival.

On the other side of geographical context is how fragile the nation is with respect to disasters.

Natural disasters such as floods and diseases outbreaks in the case of Zimbabwe require procurement systems that are responsive since the effects of such, collapses the economy.

Generally, geographical context would require efficiency and effectiveness in public procurement systems where issues costs versus service are pertinent.

Legal context refers to the structure and the legal system of a country.

The structure could be a unitary or federal state. Unitary states would be effective with centralised control of procurement systems whereas federal states would be effective with decentralised procurement systems that have different levels of control.

The legal system would assess whether the country has civil or common law system or whether their laws are Anglophone or Francophone or they belong to a trade union such as Comesa, Sadc or Cecafa.

•Nyasha Chizu is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: nyashachizu@harleyreed.com; Skype: nyasha.chizu

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