The information function of the PPO

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An effective public procurement office is as discussed in previous articles, responsible for legislation and policy function whereby it is expected to be instrumental in directing the creation of the legal framework.

It is further expected to be the advisor to the government on procurement matters. The most recent articles explored the monitoring function of the public procurement office (PPO) where the ex ante and ex post facto review and procurement auditing where identified as critical attributes to maintain integrity in public procurement. The focus is now on the other critical roles of the public procurement office that include the information function covered by this article, the capacity building function, the development function, the supervisory and enforcement functions that shall follow.

Every development in the public procurement function, like the envisaged procurement reform, would need to be communicated to all stakeholders. Public procurement stakeholders include the suppliers, procuring entities and the citizens. This basic information function is often ignored and is mostly limited to dissemination of information to procuring entities and the suppliers, the critical part of the tendering process is left out.

This reveals the attitude of a government to the procurement markets and its participants, non-availability of a communication strategy that in the end guarantees complications to the tender process. The results are fatal, the rate of non-compliance increases at the expense of the economy and efficiency in public procurement.

Information dissemination is an imperative function where stakeholders are educated about the rules of the game and the application of the law to the procurement process.

This embraces transparency and is fundamental for both the domestic and the international procurement market. Information about the laws and regulations, standard tender forms and contract documents, guidelines and manuals as well as directives needs to be made available to the stakeholders. The idea is to demystify the public procurement process since it is not a game of chess where one achieves by capitalising on the others’ weaknesses or mistakes.

The information discussed above provides essential knowledge of the system. Publication of information further embraces efficiency of the system itself. In addition to unpacking the public procurement law and system, the PPO in many cases is mandated to publish tender notices and awards. Some advanced PPOs go to the extent of publishing bulletins for tender notices, awards and newsletters providing vital general information to the stakeholders that include the results from their monitoring function.

Traditionally, information has been available through print media publications of newspapers and national gazettes.

With the development of information communication technology, information is now readily available through the PPO’s website and the move if embraced, will achieve the e-Government initiative in Zimbabwe public procurement. The use of websites for information dissemination provides other benefits that enhance e-Procurement. They can be used to provide online documentation such as forms and model documents, tender document downloads and bid uploads is permitted electronically if the law provides for this necessary development. It can go further to perform the monitoring function through collection of information passing through the electronic system.

The information role of the PPO needs to be embraced given the benefits.

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