“AfDB has helped African countries build their legal and institutional frameworks,” says Gabriel Negatu, Governance Director
Question – What is the role of public procurement in Africa’s economic growth and poverty reduction efforts?
Answer – The role of public procurement is crucial for making progress in reducing poverty and promoting development. Public procurement represents nearly 70% of governments’ expenditure and more than 90% of capital expenditure in some African countries. In this respect, African governments have recognised that public procurement is a central area for achieving good public financial management.
There is broad consensus that public procurement reform in Africa, with a focus on transparency and accountability, is now more urgent than ever, with the scarcity of resources in the context of the global downturn.
Question – What major challenges have Africa’s public procurement systems faced since 1998? What major progress has been made in this regard?
Answer – In 1998, the Bank hosted the Abidjan conference which brought out the key challenges impeding public procurement reforms in Africa. Since then, the continent has witnessed major improvements, both at country and regional levels. In this regard, several countries have made significant progress to comply with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model and regional standards. In the Common Market East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) regions, procurement directives were ratified and enacted. These contribute to free trade and economic integration in Africa.
Despite of these improvements, challenges persist. These include:
- Ineffective implementation of the reformed procurement systems including weak capacity and institutions;
- Continued risk of corruption;
- Lack of consensus among international financial institutions on the use of country procurement systems; and
- Poor capacity and low motivation, incentives and levels of transparency and accountability on the part of public officials.
Furthermore, the implementation of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) recommendations on the use of country systems as a primary channel for aid still lag behind.
Question – What major role has the Bank played in efforts at reforming public procurement systems in Africa?
Answer – The Bank has been at the forefront assisting our Regional Members Countries to strengthen their procurement systems based on the Bank Governance Strategic Directions and Action Plan (GAP) for 2008-2012. In this respect, the Bank is intervening at two different levels;
- The regional level; and
- Country level
At the regional level the Bank supports the adoption and strengthening of regional norms and standards in public procurement. For example, the Bank, in conjunction with its development partners is engaged in two regional projects. The Public Procurement Support Project in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) aims to modernise and harmonise public procurement systems in the region, based on the framework adopted in December 2005. Similarly, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Enhancing Procurement Reforms and Capacity Project, strengthens procurement systems in COMESA members states through the modernization of their laws and regulations. Both projects serve to enhance good economic and financial governance, and indeed regional integration in the COMESA and WAEMU regions through more harmonised procurement systems. This in turn is improving the business environment and helping attract more investment in these regions.
At the Country level, the focus is to fortify the RMCs country-procurement systems and institutions for governing public resources in an effective, transparent and accountable manner. In this respect, Bank interventions occur through: budget support operations and institutional support projects. For example, regarding budget support operations, 40% of them include conditions for disbursement related to procurement reform. In conjunction with policy based operations, the purpose of institutional support projects is to strengthen country systems and institutions in public procurement. The institutional support projects have helped RMCs countries build their legal and institutional frameworks, strength their procurement control and audit systems and introduce computerised procurement information system linked to the overall Public Finance Management system.