Columnists Features

Safeguarding taxpayers money through prudent public procurement

JOSHUA BANDA
Zambia has in the recent months been faced with economic hardships which have seen major exchange currencies appreciating by bigger margins against the local currency. Prices of goods and commodities have since skyrocketed.
The effect has been felt in every sector of the economy and it is in this situation that the country is carrying out major projects.
The government and statutory bodies procure goods and services in large quantities.
The procurement unit is responsible for handling these purchases.
Therefore, how should this unit handle taxpayers’ money, especially this time when the economy is recovering?
How much value should this unit add to the entire procurement process? The government is not short of human capital in this area that is qualified and able to understand the principles of procurement, especially public procurement.
The country has embarked on a series of developmental projects such as Link Zambia 8000, pave Zambia 2000, L400 road project in Lusaka, C400 road project on the Copperbelt, rehabilitation of rural roads countrywide, on-going health infrastructure development, rehabilitation and construction of water supply and sanitation infrastructure, implementation of housing development programmes, rehabilitation of prison infrastructure, construction of police stations and posts.
The expenditure for these capital projects is huge and this calls for prudent procurement to safeguard taxpayers’ money.
According to the 2016 budget, the government proposes to spend K754 million on procurement of drugs and medical supplies, K468.8 million on water sanitation, the list goes on.
This is the time for public procurement professionals to exhibit professionalism and save public funds.
Looking at the economic status of the country now, there could be no better time than this for procurement professionals to specifically use “Do It right the first time” principle to ensure quality procurement of goods and services and obtain value for money.
When a project of building a school in areas such as in Shangombo is undertaken, a reliable and capable contractor must be engaged.
The consequences of engaging unreliable contractors are harsh as this will deprive the people of such areas of the right to education and better health facilities because of failure to complete the projects.
Such a scenario has the potential to cause retendering of the procurement process which will cost government time and money. Undoubtedly, this can be avoided if only procurement professionals do what they do best.
This is the right time for procurement practitioners to stand up and be counted.
Section 25 (1) of the Public Procurement Act No. 12 of 2008 stresses that public procurement must achieve value for money (VfM) and promote competition.
This objective can only be achieved when procurement practitioners define what VfM is. According to the World Bank, VfM can also be defined as “perceived value for a perceived product”.
Do not spend too much for too little. Now is the time to exercise effective supply chain risk management to mitigate the risk of paying too much for too little as a result of being reactive as opposed to being proactive.
Procurement professionals should register with Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply (ZIPS) and make meaningful contribution by practising legally because this is the right time to rise and shine and make savings for the companies you are serving. In the case of public procurement, this is the right time to allow private sector participation through competitive public procurement.
The country needs them now more than ever before.
Some suppliers, locally and internationally, will genuinely price their merchandise while others will unrealistically quote exorbitantly at the pretext of depreciation of the Kwacha. As procurement professionals one is  called to be alert and do your market intelligence diligently well and lend a hand in improving the economy of this country.
Procure goods and services at the most cost-efficient price. Especially if you have a symbiotic relationship with your suppliers, ensure you reap the benefits by putting to use your problem solving skills. Avoid “Muda”. This is a Japanese philosophy meaning waste.
Huge servings have a positive impact on the socio-economic status of the country, whereas bad procurement practices such as corrupt practices and fraudulent practices have the potential to sabotage the economy.
Put to good use the codes and laws, ethics, integrity, values and morals which you have acquired to serve and save Zambia.
God bless Zambia in 2016.
The author is a procurement professional.

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