Public procurement in Uganda has come a long way since reforms were made in the 1990s by the Central Tenders' Board.
This year, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) Act of 2003 was scrutinised, which led to some landmark gains.
To coincide with the country's golden jubilee anniversary celebrations, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) organised and hosted a two-day symposium in September to discuss the achievements, challenges and the future of public procurement since its inception in 2003.
The symposium, which attracted a range of stakeholders from within and without the country agreed on several emerging issues. Cardinal among these was the need to focus more on value for money rather than mere compliance to procedure.
For the financial year 2011/2012, under the Procurement Performance Measurement System (PPMS), Dr. Cornelia Sabiiti, PPDA's executive director said value for money is still wanting as only 0.7% of the assessed procurements were implemented according to the planned budget estimates.
The need to make procurement faster forms part of the cardinal objectives of the proposed amendment to the PPDA Act. Approved by the Cabinet, the amendments are now before Parliament for approval. When amended, the act is also
expected to promote the development of the domestic industry through the preference and reservation schemes and ease procurement of medicines.
The Government, in June, made headway on the use of force accounts by handing over road equipment and district and town councils for road maintenance.
Despite the significant leaps made by procurement since PPDA's inception, several challenges still persist. Benon Basheka, a Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) congress member representing Africa says most of the corruption scandals have a procurement dimension.
With the growing demand for service delivery, the Government expenditure on procurement has grown tenfold from the early 1990s. Public procurement takes over 55% of the government budget. Basheka says this increase in the budget has attracted the attention of the greedy offi cials, affecting service delivery greatly.
"Service delivery is low in almost all sectors despite the huge procurement expenditures. It is not enough to be compliant with the procurement systems or regulations when public services are not commensurate. This year has not focused on outcomes as a result of the huge public expenditures on procurements," says Basheka, one of the key figures in Uganda's procurement circles.
Basheka says unlike other professions which have a selfregulatory framework of punishing professionals who engage in
unethical conduct, the procurement profession is not yet at that level. This has been handicapped by the fact that the law recognising procurement as a profession is yet to be passed, unlike other East African countries which are making tremendous strides in this regard.
"We have had serious issues with some policy makers who believe that procurement is not a profession," Basheka adds.