The level of perceived corruption in procuring goods, services and works in the country is so high that it is often said that if you want to become rich, you have to become a procurement officer.
The perception comes from issues related to procurement. There is not much good to talk about. It is always for the wrong reasons like corruption, bribery and poor quality of goods and services procured if not the anti graft body investigating or locking people up.
There is a huge amount of money involved in procurement. The government is the biggest client and spends about 60 percent of the budget on procuring works, goods and services every year. It is about 17 percent of the country’s GDP. If it is not well organised, it is going to cost the government huge and waste scarce resources.
With limited manufacturers in the country, most of the goods have to be procured from outside. This ranges from simple goods like a plastic file to tonner cartridges to expensive machineries. We procure services ranging from fixing a simple machine to hiring consultants. And when it to comes to government work, the private sector thrives on it. Works range from as small as covering sewer manholes to constructing buildings, roads or bridges.
The problem in the procurement system affect the quality of goods and services meant for the people. It hampers our development efforts.
All procurement issues are coming at a time when the government is trying to reform the procurement rules. The issues in procurement is not new. In fact, we have recognised this as soon as we started procuring goods and services. The problem is we are still finding a solution.
Buoyed by the loopholes and the huge profit in the procurement sector, those in the business are becoming bolder. Some are colluding with officials encouraged by government officials entrusted to plug the loopholes.
The problem once was with the lowest bidder. We have now what is called the lowest evaluated bidder, but it is not foolproof. The evidence is in the quality of goods supplied.
In the procurement field, one way to look at it is leaving our safety in the hands of a few people. Whether it is building a government quarter, a road or a bridge, the safety depends on what material is used or how it is used.
In the health sector, it is more crucial. Surgeons and nurses are finding it difficult to wear the gloves supplied. The concern is not gloves not fitting hands, it is the safety of both patients and doctors. Doctors say that the only thing between the doctor and the patient is the rubber gloves. If the quality of gloves were compromised because officials and suppliers worked hand in gloves, it is compromising safety.
It is comforting to know some reforms are being planned, but more than the reforms or the ACC interventions, we need a conscious effort in every government ministry.
It is the responsibility of us all. We should question and let authorities know if the tonner supplied is not matching the specification or if the gloves at the hospitals are stained or contaminated. It is everybody’s responsibility.