Monitoring function of public procurement office


One role of public procurement office often compromised due to its many interpretations is the monitoring function. Monitoring is often associated with control and thus making monitoring indistinguishable from any other form of control.

Monitoring is one of the fiduciary responsibilities of a public procurement office and it is imperative that the ongoing public procurement reforms consider appropriate mechanisms to achieve it.

In a large number of systems, monitoring is considered a means of control in the form of ex-ante control or review. Ex-ante review is the mechanism that is adopted by developing agencies such as the World Bank that results in the issuance of a “no objection” to facilitate the procuring entity to enter into contract for bank-funded projects. Ex-ante is, therefore, a review of a procurement activity that is conducted by a monitoring unit on a procurement award by a procuring entity before the winner is announced.

Ex-ante review is totally different from the current operations of the State Procurement Board in that the award is done by the procuring entity as opposed to the procurement awards that are done by the public procurement office on behalf of procuring entities. The latter is widely regarded as a serious diluent of accountability and responsibility in public procurement decision-making process. Ex-ante review qualifies as an effective monitoring tool. It considers all individual award procedures independently and it is more inclined to direct supervision.

The other extreme of ex-ante review is ex-post auditing. It is sometime referred to as ex-post facto used to indicate a law or ruling that is intended to be retroactive, affecting an action already done.

Ex-post reviews by their nature are a means of identifying system weaknesses the same way audits do in order to study the problem to facilitate preference of an appropriate control mechanism in the system.

It is more of a process of collecting data on public procurement from procuring entities that are subject to the legal framework and other sources with the purpose of serving the government and Parliament with reports and information on the status of public procurement in the country. The audit has capacity to identify systematic problem areas and identify trends. Such audits consider identification of a single breach of rules in a contract award as insignificant when it is compared to the capability of identifying common failures of all procuring entities in one or more areas of implementation or of regional problems.
Monitoring trends cannot be done in a review of a single procurement process in isolation. Trends only become apparent when the public procurement office has information on all or a significant number of procedures and where it has the overview of the system as a whole. Where monitoring is seen from this perspective, it becomes a tool for the future improvement of the nation procurement system and not simply another form of control.

An effective public procurement reform would, therefore, want to incorporate ex-ante and ex-post facto review mechanisms to ensure effective monitoring of public procurement systems. Future articles shall consider the mechanisms for ex-ante and ex-post reviews in detail.

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