Summary - Public Procurement System in Zambia

Public procurement plays a very critical role in the development programmes of any country and is accountable for 10 – 15% of GDP. Therefore a country’s procurement system needs to be effective and efficient in order to obtain value for money. A well-functioning procurement system is based on transparency, accountability, and fairness. Proper procurement of public goods, works, and services is crucial for good economic management and addressing leakages of government funds. Failure to properly manage the procurement process can lead to wasted effort and poor development results consequently to increased poverty and deprivation of social and economic rights of the citizenry.

The observation within civil society is that there are high levels of corruption in the procurement processes in Zambia. Zambia loses millions of Kwacha due to corruption and corrupt tendencies every year. For Example, according to the Auditor General’s Report of 2010, the government in 2010 lost K649,210,800 due to non-delivery of materials.

This state of affairs has been attributed to the lack of transparency and accountability in the procurement system, lack of enforcement of transparency and accountability provisions in the legal and regulatory frameworks and lack of capacity by civil society organisations (CSO) and citizens to effectively participate in the procurement process.

CSO and citizens can only participate effectively in the procurement process if they had access to adequate information about the procurement process. Release of adequate information also promotes accountability and transparency in the procurement system. However, studies undertaken in the health, education and construction sectors revealed weaknesses in the legal and regulatory frameworks with regard to release of information and accessibility to such information. The studies also revealed the lack of capacity of CSO and citizens to actively and effectively participate in public procurement. The studies further revealed poor procurement practices.

Procurement and contracts monitoring

The project proposes to establish a coalition of CSO to undertake procurement and contracts monitoring. The underlying premise for the monitoring is that the release of adequate procurement information will help enhance transparency and accountability in the procurement system. In order to do this the project proposes to train the coalition members and citizens in procurement and contracts monitoring and also engage procuring entities and the oversight and regulatory bodies to enforce provisions of relevant legal and regulatory frameworks. The coalition would then collect the released information and disseminate it to communities using various channels, including, sms, coalition website, community radio stations and community meetings.

Benefits of procurement and contracts monitoring

The benefits of procurement and contracts monitoring will accrue to government, procuring entities, industry, CSO and citizens.

These benefits will include:
  • Enhanced accountability of procuring entities and suppliers for the cost and quality of public sector procurement through enhanced accountability mechanisms.
  • Greater public confidence in government and the procurement process.
  • As a result of tackling corruption, more companies will be encouraged to bid which would lead to fairer prices and higher quality projects with higher economic and social returns.
  • Increased transparency and fewer opportunities for corruption will engender confidence in the industry that a ‘level playing field’ exists and contract award and administration will be fair.
  • Capacity of civil society to undertake procurement and contract monitoring will be enhanced.
  • Civil society organisations will enjoy increased access to information and the opportunity to participate in the governance of the public procurement process.
  • Citizens will be able to compare what they are getting with what they should be getting, leading to better service delivery that meets their real needs.

In order to meet its objectives, the coalition proposes to undertake activities to address the specific issues that contribute to the current state of procurement in Zambia.

The specific issues to be addressed are:
  • Leakages in public expenditure;
  • Inadequate capacity and information;
  • CSO and local communities do not act to monitor and lobby government for a transparent and accountable procurement system;
  • Provisions in the procurement legal and regulatory frameworks to promote transparency and accountability not adequately enforced;
  • Lack of information; and
  • Lack of CSO platform.

Procurement and contracts monitoring will result into among other things, improved transparency and accountability in the procurement process, enhanced citizens’ confidence in government intentions, and less opportunity for corrupt practices. The benefits that will accrue to the various stakeholders will ultimately result into an active and effective participation by the citizens in procurement decisions that affect them and an improved standard of living for the citizens.

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