E-Tendering One Good Way to Curb Procurement Corruption in Africa

Digital Content

Tendering and awarding bids is the most sensitive and critical step in public sector procurement.

Tendering is basically the process where a buying institution publishes its intention to purchase some goods from or engage the services of a suitable vendor, passes on the details of what it needs in terms of goods or services and invites sealed bids / offers in order to select the most competent and competitive bids.

It has been established that the bulk of corrupt practices in the region takes place at the procurement and tendering boards level. Corruption is a complex problem that needs multi faceted actions.

Online tendering would ensure transparency, accountability to citizens, and incorporates all the benefits of transacting on the Internet - anytime-anywhere access, improved efficiency, wider reach, and access to information. It also cuts down on the public sector's biggest tender processing costs - advertising, preparing, printing and disseminating tender documents, and then processing bids - both in terms of money and time.

The emergence of the Internet has revolutionised business access to information. IT plays an important role in impacting development in general and specifically combating transparency and corruption. Technology promises a lot in development and lowering corruption. E-procurement is one such initiative that has the potential to limit corruption.

Many large and complex systems in the government can be made more efficient through computerisation. However, for improving transparency of these systems, E-Government solutions are necessary. Significant process re-engineering should be done prior to computerisation to avoid the risk of simply replicating existing processes, which lack transparency and efficiency.

Electronic procurement allows governments to remove inefficiencies from their processes and build integrated supply chains. It introduces exciting new ways for organisations to communicate internally and externally, conduct business transactions and manage supply chains and alliances. Automating the processes could reduce the cost of procurement transactions.

These reduce administrative tasks, such as manually copying information. Maximum benefits are reaped when procurement processes are reformed to exploit the potential of technology. Information technology improves efficiency, brings stronger relationships and new form of service delivery.

Regional governments should make its business opportunities information available online to service providers. Tendering should be conducted through the Internet and incorporate functionality for real time dynamic pricing and project management. Invoicing and payments can also be conducted electronically. Ideally, the whole procurement process would be integrated with the government's financial management system. This would enable reports, statistics and analysis of purchasing patterns to be produced. eTendering enables prospective bidders to view opportunities, register expressions of interest, receive information and submit tenders electronically.

Service providers will have a chance to seek information for tenders online, submit tenders, maintain and communicate information on their goods and services via the Internet. They would also receive orders, invoice buyers and receive payments electronically. The tender web site should be easy to navigate. Locating and submitting tenders is a simple operation requiring no special user skills, software or hardware. The eTendering system streamlines the whole tendering process and provides better access and greater opportunities for all.

The government should adopt a centralised procurement system. Announcing of tenders and arranging contracts for projects needed by the public organisations should be entrusted to an agency. A wide web-based system should be set up to deal with the entire procurement process including acquisition of all the information on the procurement projects, procurement request, bids, contracting and payment.

Such a system should not only result in dramatic reduction of unnecessary paperwork and procedures, but also remove inconveniences and potential corruption due to the increased transparency it would bring to the public procurement market.

Under the current traditional processes, complicated paperwork not only takes a lot of time but also opens loopholes for corruption. However, a procurement system would provide a one-stop procurement service via linkage with procurement-related information held by government agencies and institutions. Procurement participants would handle procurement business over the Internet without physically visiting the public offices. Bid contents would be fully disclosed on the Internet, which brings up transparency and efficiency in overall public procurement. By putting all public bidding information on one site, anyone can easily find all available information via the Internet with great ease.

The payment process would then be simplified, and money transfers conducted in an electronic way. Best-case practises show that with such systems, analysis is easily generated and corruption is detectable. Systems should be put in place to pursue remedial action where cases of actual corruption are identified.

Governments should re-engineer its procurement processes to optimise the use of electronic commerce and other innovative technologies. There should be a strategy that outlines the use of information technology. This would streamline internal government practices, reduce costs, and improve service delivery.

East African Business Week