Public procurement for private sector organisations

As public funds are being utilised, the scrutiny for cost-effectiveness and value for money is heightened, with emphasis on transparency and competition.

PUBLIC procurement has since evolved in the modern day with improvements that have seen government departments transacting much more easily and in a more transparent manner with suppliers within the market.

This has been made much easier with the introduction of tools such as the new eGP platform recently launched by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) that has improved transparency and accountability in a sector commonly plagued and accused of being involved in illicit transactions that come under fire in the court of public opinion.

The new system has aided in Praz’s mandate outlined in the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act that seeks to ensure procurement is conducted in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost-effective and competitive. The regulator has clearly courted all capable suppliers to participate in the processes it oversees.

Public procurement is the system through which the government procures external resources needed by entities, utilising public funds. This is the acquisition of goods and services needed for these organisations to operate their supply chains.

As public funds are being utilised, the scrutiny for cost-effectiveness and value for money is heightened, with emphasis on transparency and competition.

To this end, the Act provides for procurement of goods and services through a tiered system of request for quotations, domestic and international tender processes, restricted tenders and direct engagements depending on the specific needs of the public entity, its criticality and the budget required.

For most private sector companies, public entities are their biggest customers, but concerns are often raised over the transparency of processes in these organisations.

However, a lack of knowledge and capacity building has led most to believe that dealing with government entities is a sure way of running down the business, without internally looking at their own flaws that have them disqualified when participating in public procurement processes.

The regulator has made inroads in ensuring that transparency is achieved when participating in public processes, mostly centred around the new eGP platform.

It has given bidders the chance to access all the information required to participate and it gives sufficient time for them to submit proposals in line with the requirements given. On top of this, the regulator allows for review and changes to the processes done to ensure that transparency and honesty are fulfilled.

So how does one ensure they can safely participate in public procurement processes? To be fair, the steps have easily been provided through literature published in the Act, regulations and various workshops undertaken by the regulator and other third-party organisations, and it is impressive to note that many private sector companies have now begun to participate freely and in their numbers.

Ensuring that the private sector organisation is properly registered with the relevant authorities is the first step towards achieving the competence level required for public procurement participation.

Formal registration, in line with the country’s laws is essential, as only registered companies are eligible to participate in the processes.

Furthermore, the new Act now also recognises the importance of company obligations to the State and to their employees through mandating that only those with tax clearances and National Social Security Authority (Nssa) clearance certificates are eligible to participate. Hence, there is no real reason to not ensure your taxes are paid, and your Nssa obligations are up to date when intending to participate in public tenders.

The new eGP platform also allows for submission of bids and quotations through the platform as a more secure and efficient way of avoiding fraud and improving turnaround times.

This is where bidders can view the request for quotations and proposals, receive amendment updates in real time and submit their bids electronically, without the need to physically be present in the entity’s offices.

Registration on the platform is free and can be done online completely, with the only charges being certification for the particular category that the company is skilled in.

The benefits of participating in the public processes will only be realised by those who have capacitated themselves to become eligible for participation.

Ensuring the company is fully registered, its tax obligations are settled and Praz and Nssa certificates are obtained are the first steps towards realising good business relationships with government entities.

Once capacity is realised, competence may come second. This is where the business can now leverage on its understanding of business needs and its expertise to provide solutions for the entities in a cost-effective manner.

  • Kudzai Chambisha is a chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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