Improving transparency in government procurement through technology

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MoritzBotha.jpgTransparency is one of the most effective ways to increase price competitiveness among suppliers, resulting in lower purchase prices, if implemented correctly.


Moritz Botha
, Director: eTendering at National Treasury, discusses the use of technology to achieve these goals in this month's SmartProcurement.


Ensuring transparency in procurement is typically achieved through the publication of the following three types of procurement information in the public domain:
 

Procurement Plans - indicate the scheduled procurement volume for every procuring entity;

Tender Adverts - the formal invitations with supporting documents to suppliers to tender offers based on government requirements;

Awarded Tenders - The award results of a contract to a successful tenderer, including the price and the final points for the last competitors.


The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) at National Treasury has a mandate to ensure that public sector organisations in South Africa honour the provisions of section 217 of the Constitution when spending taxpayer’s money procuring goods, services and works.


Although the OCPO is not directly involved in the procurement activities of government entities, the office manages procurement reforms, maintains procurement systems and oversees the way in which government does business with the private sector.


On 12 November 2014 Cabinet approved the proposed reforms aimed at maximizing SCM impact (cabinet memorandum 25 of 2014). Amongst the processes the OCPO was instructed to address was:


• simplifying, standardising and automating procurement activities across all spheres of government; and

• modernising SCM technology and up-scaling the use thereof.


One of the initiatives from the OCPO to practically translate the objectives of modernising SCM through the use of technology is the eTender Publication Portal. On 1 April 2015 the OCPO launched the eTender Publication Portal wherein bids above the R500 000 threshold are advertised and accessible through http://www.etenders.gov.za


The eTender Publication Portal currently displays all current tender opportunities as well as the contract information of awarded tenders that exceeds the R500 000 threshold. Quarterly procurement plans are also published indicating what bid opportunities the national departmental and related public entities are planning to issue during the next quarter.


Access to the portal and downloading of bid documents are available at no charge. Tenders are categorised by department, province and commodity type, making it simple for small, medium and large enterprises to find government opportunities related to them.


Currently the solution has been rolled out to all national and provincial departments as well as their related public entities. As soon as the relevant legal instruments are in place the solution will be rolled out to local sphere of government.


The portal is managed by the OCPO in coordination with the administrative users at national, provincial and local government level. SITA provides the technical support, maintenance and hosting of the portal.


Some of the key objectives of this initiative were to:

• Centralise all government tender information in a single online repository;

• Provide a tool where South African business and government meet digitally;

• Reduce and hopefully eliminate duplication of costs and effort associated with traditional tender publications;

• Improve competition for government business;

• Improve transparency and accountability in relation to government tenders; and

•Support fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective procurement in an easy to access, single point of entry, technology driven facility.


This is the first of many initiatives where information and communication technology will be used as the catalyst to drive transformation and modernisation of procurement in the public sector.

Supplier management, subscription services and online tender submission are just some of the future enhancement being developed to improve transparency, turnaround times and ultimately service delivery.
 

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