In a bid to entrench farmer empowerment through community participation, the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) rolled out community procurement in 2007.
Esereda Bakisula, the NAADS Procurement and Disposal Unit manager, says after a slow start, community procurement is gathering pace with successes in value for money and minimising bureaucracy.
How community procurement works
The procurement function at the village level is orchestrated by the Village Procurement Committee (VPC), which is composed of five members of the village farmer forum.
Farmers on the forum are selected from two groups; food security farmers and market oriented farmers
This committee is elected by the village farmer forum after the selection of the beneficiary farmer. The model is designed in such a way that new beneficiaries are selected each financial year.
The VPC is then mandated to perform several functions. This committee is expected to consolidate procurement for both the food security and market oriented farmers.
The committee also works closely with the sub-county chief. Notifications to the sub-county chief on the issuance of local purchase orders to the awarded suppliers and the submission of invoices to the sub-county chief for payment are performed by the VPC.
Other roles of the VPC include; seeking quotations from suppliers, comparing quotations and making award decisions and certifying the acknowledgement lists of beneficiary farmers.
The procurement exercise can be conducted at parish level in the interest of lowering transactional costs for technology inputs that are common across the villages in a single parish.
"If villages want similar items, then it makes more sense for them to consolidate their interests at the parish level," says Arthur Ssemalulu, a NAADS assistant procurement support officer.
In such a scenario, the VPC members from each village elect five members to conduct procurement on their behalf at the parish procurement committee.
At sub-county level, the procurement committee is composed of five members. Among other roles, the sub-county procurement committee ensures compliance to the NAADS Act and community procurement guidelines.
Ssemalulu further explains that the district Procurement and Disposal Units are al key allies in community procurement.
"Because we want to create an inclusive approach, we work closely with PDUs, who at times are delegated by NAADS, to carry out procurements, especially those that are beyond the capacity of farmers," he says.
Sub-counties also feed their reports to these PDUs, which in turn feed their reports to PPDA.
Community procurement has low thresholds. According to NAADS, these procurements rarely exceed sh10m at all these levels.
The local bidding is used for procurements of above sh5m. Adverts are placed in public places such as worship places and schools to get competitive quotes.
For procurements below sh5m, local shopping is used. A minimum of three quotations from selected farmers is sought.
Direct contracting is used for procurements that go up to sh100,000 or where there is a sole supplier of the goods.
Despite the various successes recorded, the community procurement model still faces several challenges.
NAADS cites illiteracy as a major challenge. The guidelines are written in English, while the majority of rural farmers can neither read nor write.
Ssemalulu says this has led to yet another challenge: "A certain set of individuals who are educated take advantage of those who are not educated."
The interference of politicians is another challenge facing the implementation of community procurement.
"Some politicians go around in villages telling people that NAADS is there to benefit only NRM supporters. This spread of propaganda keeps away some farmers," explains Ssemalulu.
He adds that lack of logistical support is yet another major issue facing the community procurement model.
"Many farmers face the task of moving long distances to source in-puts yet the issues of transport and communication facilitation are not catered for in the budgets," he explains.
The untimely release of money by the finance ministry is yet another challenge. NAADS says sometimes money arrives for the procurement of in-puts when the season has changed.
There is also lack of permanent office space, thus records are stored in homes.