e-GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT: BENCHMARKING THE UKRAINIAN EXPERIENCE

Public administration has undergone a number of reforms in recent times, with the latest model being the “managerialism” (the market based public administration) otherwise known as the post-bureaucratic paradigm. Along with these innovations has been the strong quest to cut costs, simplify rules and curb corruption and waste from the public system. To expedite these reforms, there has been the shift from manual processes to the application of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the form of e-Government Initiatives expected to ultimately improve the growth of the economy and enhance the quality of life of its populace.

It is in the light of this, that, the Public Procurement Authority through Ghana’s e-Transform Project launched the country’s maiden e-Government Procurement (e-GP) System in July, 2017 with “kick-off” meetings among stakeholders and the Application Service Providers-European Dynamics. As at now, a number of system engineering processes have begun in earnest with the consolidation of several Systems Requirement Specifications that are expected to enable effective configuration, parameterization and adaptations of the eGP System.

e-GP has been described variously, however, the most common definition as adopted by the e-GP working group of Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) and the International Financial Institutions (IFI) at the World Bank in Washington, D.C in May 2003, is “ the use of Information & Communications Technology (especially the Internet) by governments in conducting their procurement relationships with suppliers for the acquisition of goods, works, and consultancy services required by the public sector”. Simply put, it is a Business to Government (B2G) procurement model that requires the strict incorporation of the essential components of a public procurement legal framework as well as the core principles of public procurement such as transparency, fairness and competition into the business rules of such an electronic system.

To develop a very robust and efficient e-GP system for Ghana that will be consistent with international best practice, the PPA together with the project consultants-PricewaterHouse Coopers (PwC) recently obtained support from some agencies to embark on a Benchmarking Visit to Ukraine to understudy its widely acclaimed e-procurement system.

Although the Ukrainian system has received high of recognition from reputable bodies such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) under its Open Contracting Data Standards platform, the choice of Ukraine as a destination for this benchmarking visit was informed by the fact that its system has a well-developed e-Library of Product Specifications for common use items which is a “must have” functionality for any e-GP. This library of Product Specification allows procurement entities the flexibility to develop concise specifications for items to be tendered and thereby promote standardization, fairness and competition. This we believe when incorporated into Ghana’s e-GP will be a relief to procurement entities as they will not have to struggle any longer to develop specifications for products when preparing their tender documents.

Lessons Learnt

ProZorro which is a Ukrainian word for “Transparently” is the name given to the e-GP system and was developed as part of Ukraine’s recent political reforms which begun in March 2014, with the aim of curbing corruption and promoting transparency and efficiency into its public procurement processes under the tagline-“Everybody sees Everything”.

Although acquired through an Open Source, the system has been customized into a hybrid system that is interfaced by a number of Procurement Platforms (Brokers) that facilitate the advertisements of bid notices from Procurement Entities and also allow Suppliers to submit their bids in real time. Aspects of the system in terms of functionalities include a web portal, e-planning, e-Library of Specifications, e-Registration of Suppliers, e-authentication, e-Notices, e-Notification, e-Submission of Tenders, e-Evaluation of Tenders, e-Auction and e-Award of Contracts.

Considering the fact that ProZorro is a product of Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, the sector ministry for government procurement –Ministry of Economic Development and Trade has continued to encourage a multi-stakeholder approach to public procurement popularly referred to as the “Golden Triangle of Partnership” made up of the Government, Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations.

Fig. 1 The Golden Triangle of Partnership

In terms of the involvement of Civil Society in the entire e-procurement ecosystem, Transparency International Ukraine has developed a Business Intelligence Model called the DorZorro Monitoring Portal which is consistent with Open Contracting Data Standards and sets Key Performance Indicators that allows other Oversight Institutions and Civil Society Organizations, Investigative Journalists and members of the general public to run random checks on procurement processes and conduct analysis on selected tender notices, contract awards, and other market analysis. The outcomes of these analyses are then used to inform policy formulation and detect possible fraud or corrupt practices.

After barely one year of implementation, the ProZorro e-Procurement System has chalked a number of successes. For instance to date, 29,000 Procurement Entities and 129,000 Suppliers have enlisted on the System and about 1.19 billion Euros have been recorded as savings to government as a result of Procuring Entities obtaining high value at competitive prices for their tenders. Again, the intense risk management measures and high alert on corrupt practices, have also made remarkable impact on Ukraine’s Corruption Perception Indices over the past few years, with a significant drop in business perceptions of corruption in public procurement from 99.1% in 2014 to 29% in 2016. (Transparency International)

Going Forward…

As Ghana seeks to benchmark its e-GP with that of well-established systems like ProZorro, a very comprehensive sensitization drive will have to be embarked upon among Procuring Entities and Suppliers, Contractors and Consultants in the country to prepare them in readiness for the massive “take-off” in electronic public procurement processes.

Drawing from the Ukrainian experience, Ghana will have to improve on internet connectivity among MDAs and MMDAs and across the entire country in order to ensure that the system runs effectively with minimum hitches. In fact, it will be unpardonable to have the system deny tenderers access to submit their tenders just because they are unable to connect with the system.

Civil Society Organizations on the other hand will also have to be in step with government efforts in this regard and take the opportunity to develop their capacities in procurement and ICT so as to be able to conduct effective monitoring of procurement activities and contract executions across the country.

Additionally, since Ghana is going electronic with its procurement processes it is expected that this will have high implications on the wider public financial management system and therefore require the e-procurement system to be interfaced with public financial management systems such as the Hyperion Budget Preparation software and the Ghana Integrated Financial Management Information (GIFMIS) System designed for payment to Service Providers. Furthermore, other third party systems such as that of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Social Security Contributors Database and Registrar Generals Department’s (Company Registration) Systems will have to be interfaced with the e-GP system to ensure effective verification of mandatory certifications required as eligibility criteria in public procurement.

Conclusion

To conclude, it is important to indicate that the establishment of an e-GP system is not an end in itself, but rather a means to realize greater efficiency and transparency in public procurement. It is therefore our expectation that the implementation of this system will lead to increased compliance to public procurement laws, improve access to public procurement information and an overall increase in business activation and a boost in our economy.

The writer is the Head, Corporate Affairs & Administration Public Procurement Authority (PPA)

email
Print Friendly

Leave a Comment