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    Developing Purchasing Association Services: Uganda's Experience


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2000

    The Procurement and Logistics Management Association (PALMA) was launched in January 1995, and now has over 200 members. Seeking to overcome key problems in the procurement chain in Uganda, it has concentrated on building competence among purchasing professionals in the public and private sector by providing training, consultancy and information services.

    PALMA seeks to address key problems such as high import costs (Uganda is a landlocked country some 1,200 kilometres from the nearest port); the low quality of imported goods; unreliable supply sources; long lead times; and inadequate handling and warehousing. It also tries to promote the professionalization of the procurement function within enterprises and other organizations in order to improve competitiveness.


    Among our activities:
    • The preparation of the Buyer's Guide - a handbook for Ugandan importers and exporters.
    • Short-term training events for middle- and high-level purchasing and supply practitioners in both the public and private sectors.
    • Preparation and dissemination of import management briefs to importers through the Uganda Importers, Exporters and Traders Association.

    Growing through training

    One of PALMA's key activities is to design a range of training activities. Since 1996 we have trained approximately 360 private and public sector practitioners on a variety of international purchasing matters. Training can come in a variety of forms:

    • Training of trainers.
    • Professional courses.
    • Educational events in collaboration with academic institutions.
    • In-house programmes in selected enterprises.

    PALMA has developed special tools for assessing training needs and evaluating training events. The training events are supported by public procurement training manuals and by other tools such as ITC's 'Modular Learning System'.

    To date, PALMA has organized three annual conferences. The latest, in March 2000, was on the subject of 'Corruption Risks in Procurement in Uganda Today'. It attracted 92 participants from the private and the public sectors, as well as students and Uganda policy-makers. This event was widely covered by the press, and resulted in a series of anti-corruption measures being taken.

    PALMA's success is due to its team of instructors and consultants, all of whom are recognized specialists in their fields, as well as its strong network. PALMA's network includes partnerships with national purchasing and supply management associations, such as the National Board of Materials Management in Tanzania; academic bodies like the Uganda Management Institute; the Uganda Export Promotion Board and the United Nations Development Programme office in Kampala. These partnerships enable the exchange of materials and trainers, which are essential to the profitability and sustainability of PALMA.

    PALMA relies on membership fees, volunteers and fund-raising to carry out its work. Until recently, PALMA did not possess sufficient training materials to generate revenue through its training programmes. However, the association recently acquired ITC's 'Modular Learning System', which it sees as a valuable revenue-generating tool that will ensure the continuation of its work.

    Information and consultancy services

    In addition to training, PALMA puts great emphasis on its information services and products. It collects and disseminates data regarding supply briefs, product specifications, import tariffs and trade-

    related information. It regularly publishes the Purchasing News bulletin, a collection of articles on PALMA's activities, analyses of supply markets, product briefs and highlights on public procurement.

    PALMA has also set up a trade and economic information unit at its secretariat, comprising a technical library available to all PALMA members, prospective members and students.

    Last but not least, PALMA has developed a range of consultancy services, which have among its clients the Government of Uganda.

    The way forward

    Thanks to its new training programmes and tools, PALMA plans to increase its profitability to enable it to recruit full-time personnel to manage the association and ensure its continued success. PALMA is working towards a training strategy to ensure continuous growth. It is defining a strategy to achieve and maintain continuous improvement schemes, build capacity and foster international recognition. This training strategy includes the future development of an internationally supported and recognized professional certification programme for its members.

    Peter Kimbowa is the Executive Director of the Procurement and Logistics Management Association of Uganda. He can be contacted at pprocp@infocom.co.ug
    The articles from Morocco and Uganda are adapted from ITC's International Purchasing and Supply Management Section's bulletin, the International Purchasing and Supply Link, Issue 2/2000 (Editor: Catherine Taupiac, ITC).
    To order a copy of the bulletin, write to: ipsms@intracen.org