In April 2015, I coordinated a World Bank PIO South Asia sponsored Procurement Knowledge Exchange Program for heads of Procurement from South Asian countries to Australia. We visited Australian Commonwealth Government, Canberra; Government of Australian Capital Territory, Canberra; Government of Victoria, Melbourne; and Government of South Australia, Adelaide and met parliamentarians, Chairpersons of Procurement Boards, senior management of Public Procurement and senior management of private sector interacted with the delegation through pre agreed and clearly defined technical sessions.
The delegation consisted of Mr. Md. Faruque Hossain, Director General, Central Procurement and Technical Unit, Ministry of Planning, Govt. of Bangladesh; Mr. Karma Wangdi, Head, Public Procurement Policy Division, Department of National Properties, Royal Govt of Bhutan; Mr. Vivek Joshi, Officer on Special Duty and Jt Secretary, Public Procurement Division, Dept. of Expenditure, Min. of Finance, Govt. of India; Mr. Hameem Hussain, Senior Project Officer, Public Procurement Division, Ministry of Finance & Treasury, Govt. of Maldives; Mr. Naresh Kumar Chapagain, Joint Secretary, Public Procurement Monitoring Office, Govt of Nepal; Ms. Nazrat Bashir, Managing Director, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, Govt of Pakistan; and Mr. Priyanga Algama, Director General, Department of Public Finance, Ministry of Finance & Planning, Govt. of Sri Lanka. My colleague Mr Mohammad Amin Seskai from the World Bank Sydney office also joined us in the mission.
The most important impression I carried with me from that visit was how seriously the political economy consider public procurement as a an important economic activity in the public space. Procurement has a seat at the “high table” of the Government Business, and it an important “economic activity” to promote local interest. Ministers, Bureaucrats, Civil Society and Private sector discuss and get involved in Government Procurement, regularly. The other key take away I found were:
“Go to Market” is the core of procurement philosophy right from assessing what is needed, how much and how to deliver. Rarely people used terms like “Bidding or Tendering” Procurement laws used in Australia tell us how to keep the “law making simple”. Laws are about basic principles and establishment of Procurement policy making Bodies, delegated with rights and accountabilities for rule making, oversight, performance management and reporting In Australia, we can see one of the most decentralized model of procurement, Commonwealth and states/territories have different models and laws/rules to follow. Even within a Government, each department has liberty to frame own systems and processes.
Strategic Sourcing and Category Management are common place in Government procurement. Qualified professionals manage categories of commonly used goods and services through firms hired as Category Management Contractors.
A very cohesive management Information system at Procurement Board level and religious inputting of data by all procurement entities ensure Treasury has control over the 4Ws and H of its spending! Two way movement of Talent between public and private sector with comparable service terms and conditions helps Australian Procurement remain abreast with new developments in market A large number of very senior officials at all levels of Government supported us in realizing this very useful exposure visit. The entire delegation and the Bank remain grateful for the support and courtesies extended by Mr. Shane Stroud, Ministry of Finance, Govt. of Australia; Ms. Lynne Ford, A/g Assistant Secretary, Procurement Policy Branch; Ms. Fiona Welch, Director Public Procurement Policy and Practice and their team in Australian Government; Ms. Judith Kerr, Chair, State Procurement Board, Mr. Sam Minervini, Director Procurement and their team from Government of South Australia; Ms. Lynne Williams, Chair, VGPB; Ms. Jane Olsen, DTF CPO; Ms. Cathy Cato, Director DTF; Mr. Tarkan Koman, Director and their team in Government of Victoria; and Mr. George Tomlins, Executive Director, Procurement, Mr. Peter Murray, Executive Director Infrastructure Finance and Advisory Division and the Govt. of Australian Capital Territory.
The visit offered many new and innovative ideas that the South Asian countries can initiate within their public procurement regimes. These include:
Designating a CPO (Chief Procurement Officer) in every procurement entity and organising six monthly “CPO Forums” to update and keep pace with new developments Introducing Category Management Contractors for common goods and services- useful for smaller regimes in region “Alliancing” as a contracting method wherein all affected parties are compensated- railroad project where all those who get affected during construction get compensated Using “Probity Advisors or Auditors” in large infrastructure projects- (empanelled firms) Concept of “Hub and Spoke” for procurement skills. Limited 2-3 professional Procurement staff at head quarters of every department for direct handling of High value and Complex procurement. For low value procurement, staff in positions certified and advisory inputs given by the core team.
Using “Entity wise Core Skill Set Concept” for capacity building of departments and agencies- across levels match skill set and augment with hired resources of capacity building Partnership between Govt. and Private Training Providers for short duration courses, especially to fill the gaps identified in Core Skill Set match. Curriculum set by Procurement Board in consultation with users and courses designed and offered by private providers.
Offering training programs in modular basis. 16 courses are delivered in 45 modules of half day each which are stand alone as well as forming a Certificate level when all completed.