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    Conference on Public Procurement in Africa


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/1999

    "You have started a fire that will be burning in all of Africa, that will lead the way to good public procurement. A fire that will burn corruption."

    This was the view of participants, summarized by the representative of South Africa, at the Public Procurement Conference in Africa (Abidjan, 30 November to 4 December). This was the first conference to jointly address procurement reform issues that affect all of Africa.

    Co-sponsored by ITC, the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the conference helped participants from 30 countries address public procurement challenges and opportunities. Conference evaluations by national participants and sponsors alike showed they considered it to be a watershed event.

    These conference excerpts highlight the range and scope of issues related to public procurement reform.

    Abidjan Consensus Document on Public Procurement Reform

    1. Build Support for Reform.
    Procurement reform needs: political endorsement and commitment; a strategy for developing enabling legislation, organizations and regulations; well-trained and competent procurement officials; and supportive business and professional sectors, locally and internationally.

    2. Political Commitment.
    Required to: enact legislation; obtain public support and government staff endorsement; make key elements of procurement a priority (such as transparency and anti-corruption); promote socio-economic objectives; reassure potential donors.

    3. Obtain Resources for Reform.
    Technical assistance may be required for preliminary baseline studies and development of a business plan. Funding sources may include: a country's own resources (government and/or private sector); regional and bilateral cooperation agreements; grants and loans from multilateral agencies such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank or UNDP. Implementation support can be provided by ITC and other United Nations organizations to build capacity, or other countries that share information or lend (second) staff.

    4. Strategy for Reform.
    Key elements of any reform strategy are to: self-initiate reforms with donor assistance as needed; build local capacity and transfer skills; designate a champion of reform; integrate reform within the macro-economic framework; monitor and evaluate reform efforts; maximize national expertise (complemented by external resources); obtain media support to promote acceptance of reform; communicate national commitment and progress; ensure clear, understandable goals (reform is not an end in itself); and anticipate obstacles and quickly overcome them.

    5. Steps in Developing a Strategy.

    • Determine a vision and the goals of the reformed system.

    • Establish goals to fulfill the vision, such as anti-corruption measures, transparency enhancement, econo-my in purchasing, accountability for funds, sustainable human development and promotion of socio-economic objectives.

    • Identify the best leader of the reform effort (the Minister of Finance or higher).

    • Obtain advice from stakeholders (such as line ministries and buying agencies, finance and justice ministries, Parliament, the private sector, and the international development community).

    6. Changes to Support Reform.

    • Legal framework. Model on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Public Procurement.

    • Procurement operations. Create decentralized procurement entities, with authority to conduct the actual buying operations (following centralized policy).

    • Regulatory bodies. Assure effective audit and review capability of contracting and expenditures.

    • Organizational structure. Dependent on the extent of decentralization and the country's specific ministry and office structure. Procurement policy at center of government level. Identify a management office to formulate policy and regulations, and measure the effectiveness of the public procurement system.

    • Professional infrastructure. Establish and train a cadre of professional procurement officials, and build up a reference knowledge base of best practices.

    • Measure performance of the reformed system. Provide feedback mechnaism to measure effects of the reform process.

    For more information about the conference, follow-up actions, and public procurement reforms in general, contact Wayne Wittig, ITC Senior Adviser, Public Sector Procurement, at wittig@intracen.org or fax +41 22 730 0328.