Stop behaving as if the word “procurement” is a new addition to the language of business. The concept of procurement can be traced back to ancient civilizations and the process has evolved over time. Procurement and procurement systems are a normal part of non-government businesses. Anyone who wishes to supply goods and services to a company must adhere to its procurement process. This is what helps non-government businesses thrive and when they deviate from the process, there are usually negative consequences.
Procurement is the process of acquiring goods and services from suppliers through a structured system to which both parties have agreed and formalized, usually in writing.
A look around the world will reveal that procurement legislation has transformed the administration of public service in many countries. Why can’t it be a transformational moment for us as well, in Trinidad and Tobago? One of the first benefits of a systematized procurement process is the creation of a level playing field for all suppliers despite any consideration about whether their inclination is towards ketchup or mustard.
So, what is all the brouhaha about the Procurement Legislation? In the 18-year journey from birth to proclamation, the PNM has been responsible for the Procurement Legislation for 13 years. Despite this intimate association for 13 years, the government waited until the actual proclamation to begin the process of considering the human resources needed to implement the procurement legislation. What’s that old cliché again? Oh, yes: “Better late than never”.
If the procurement system is implemented with the use of appropriate technology, it will enable those with access to the system to track and monitor all procurement activities and therefore provide valuable data for planning and decision-making. This can also be an opportunity for citizens to see and understand what is happening with their taxpayers’ dollars.
A technology-driven procurement process might easily provide a level of transparency that can reduce the probability of corruption, mismanagement, and abuses of power. It will also reduce the time and resources to acquire goods and services and will ultimately lead to cost savings and better value for money.
The procurement legislation is certainly not the cure-all for our problems, but it requires a change in the way we do business and can be the starting point to transform our public service to one which is customer-centred, and not tainted by allegations of corruption, lack of transparency, and inefficiency.
From the licensing authority to the submission of a company’s annual returns, our country has been struggling with the effective implementation of technology. Unless a different implementation strategy is found, the potential transformation which this legislation can bring will not be realized. The easier it is for citizens to access information and services, the easier it is to generate trust in our institutions and leaders.
It is my hope that our leaders will use the implementation of the procurement legislation to systematize the way we do business and begin the transformational process which is needed in our public service and throughout our country. Let’s do this!