Government will take a giant step in cleaning up its slow and bureacratic procurement system by kicking off a pilot electronic procurement system in two districts mid next year.
Architects say the move is aimed at curbing corruption, which is rampant in government ministries, departments and agencies. Also, the East African bloc is vying to have an e-procurment system rolled out throughout the region.
Prof Simon Wanyama, the chairperson, Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA), explained that the current process in the EAC region is largely manual and can be prone to manipulation and fraud.
Speaking during the recent 10th East Africa Procurement Forum in Kampala, Wanyama noted that fraud in procurement has cost government a lot of money.
“Government is at an advanced stage of acquiring an e-government procurement system, which is to be implemented starting July 2018,” he said.
He added: “The majority of the EAC member states are at various stages of implementing a fully-fledged e-government procurement system. So, to be at the same level, this is the time we will discuss and find ways of hitting the deadline.”
Wanyama said the government aims at eliminating any physical interface between the bidder and the procuring agencies and increase transparency in the whole process.
According to Benson Turamye, PPDA’s acting executive director, the developers of the online portal have been got and contracts will be signed before the end of the year.
“The development of the portal will go up to the end of June 2018. We have got two pilot districts, which will be switched on in July next year,” he said.
The e-government procurement system is expected to improve the total time spent during procurement because the submission of bids, bidding documents, invitations and assessments will be made online.
Turamye explained that it will be integrated with the Public Financial Management System which will be able to trace who has submitted bids and when.
“We believe transparency will improve. When a tender is put out, all the bidders and public will know,” he said.
Turamye said: “We believe the costs of the whole process will go down; if you are in Kayunga or Karamoja, you don’t have to come to Kampala to submit the bids.”
Wanyama said Uganda benchmarked against countries such as Malaysia and Zambia. Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have also started adopting the e-government procurement system.
DROP IN COSTS
David Bahati, the minister of state for planning, said the e-government procurement system will cut procurement costs by 30 per cent.
“The problems inherent in the paper-based procurement system include inadequate information management, inefficient procedures and high costs of compliance costs for the suppliers. But we believe with online procurement, the costs will drop by 30 per cent,” he said.
Bahati observed that the e-government procurement system will lead to improved governance due to enhanced transparency, less opportunity for fraud and corruption, higher efficiency and reduced transaction costs.
According to Bahati, the annual sector procurement budget accounts for about 20-30 per cent of the GDP among EAC states.
Enoch Watete, the chairperson of the Association of Procurement Professionals in Rwanda, said since the country rolled out the e-government procurement system, it has reduced the level of bureaucracy in government.