Corruption in public procurement

 

It is the obligation of every procurement professional to fight corruption to the last breath.

The Corrupt Practices Act defines corruption as offering, giving, receiving obtaining or soliciting any advantage to influence the action of any public officer or any other person in the discharge of their duties.

The accurate social cost of corruption cannot be measured by the amount of bribes paid or even state property stolen.

Rather, it is a loss of output due to misallocation of resources, distortions of incentives and other inefficiencies caused by corruption that represent its real cost to society.

Most importantly, it undermines public trust in the government—diminishing its ability to fulfil its core task of providing adequate public services and a conducive environment with private sector development.

It is no secret that corruption is widespread in the country.

One of the areas where corruption is rampant is in public procurement. There are more than a few malpractices in public procurement which need to be exposed and dealt with.

Corruption thinking from a procurement officer is the art of selecting the best briber instead of the best bidder.

It is important for procurement officers to be delivered from this unscrupulous behaviour.

The country’s public procurement systems are essentially sound, but the execution, compliance, monitoring and enforcement is weak.

Public institutions should put much effort on reporting and enforcement. Without these components, corruption will still persist in public procurement despite sound procurement legal framework.

Corruption in public procurement requires an exceptional attention because it works in insidious ways.  There is need to develop a detective eye in order to spot corrupt practices in public procurement processes.

The Ninth International Anti-Corruption Conference held in Durban, South Africa, emphasised that procurement actions should encourage suppliers to value government business and provide satisfactory quality, service and price in good time.

The public is more likely to be satisfied when they know that expenditures made through the public procurement system are economical, rational and fair.

A guidebook on the basics of integrity in procurement outlines ways in which procurement officers can act in order for their favoured bidder to be at the advantage.

These acts are catalysts for corruption and should be exposed and avoided at all cost.

  1. Excluding qualified bidders

Qualified bidders can be inappropriately disqualified in order to promote a favourable bidder. This may entail limited publication of request of bids, unreasonably limited time allowed to respond for bids, unreasonably narrow contract specifications or intimidating behaviour in order to discourage potential bidders from taking part in the bidding process.

 

  1. Manipulation of bids

The procurement officer can tamper with bids after submission in order to ensure that a pre-designated firm is winning the bid. This can involve making changes to parts of bids.

  1. Rigged specifications

The procurement officer can modify the criteria in the bidding document to fit a particular company.

  1. Unbalanced bidding

The procurement officer can provide the favoured firm relevant information which is not shared with other participants in the bidding process.

While acknowledging that corruption in public procurement is a deadly enemy and cannot be exterminated overnight, yet more, the best time to go on the battlefield against this fatal enemy is now. Every procurement professional has to pull the trigger. n

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