Namibia: Internet and Digitalisation Enigmas to E-Procurement

28 September 2020

THE status of the country's plans to roll out e-government procurement is challenged because available internet bandwidth for the process is not known.

According to the Namibia e-Government Procurement Readiness Assessment Score determined last year, signal strength, internet speed and reliability within participating entities have not been identified.

This was detailed in a presentation by Francois Brand, director of capacity strengthening in the Public Procurement Unit (PPU) within the Ministry of Finance.

The PPU recommends that Namibia should expedite affordable broadband internet access and availability for procurement users.

The presentation was offered to government entities and various private sector firms in August this year.

E-Government Procurement (e-GP) involves the collaborative use of information and communication technology by government agencies, bidding communities, regulatory and overseeing agencies in the government's procurement activities.

This means the procurement of goods, works and services, and the management of contracts ensuring good governance and value for money in public procurement, would be done digitally or via online platforms.

Processes such as e-bidding, the evaluation of documents and till awarding would be digitalised.

The second phase of e-GP would extend to digital contract management.

The Public Procurement Act of 2015 provides a legal foundation for the introduction of e-procurement in Namibia.

The country's move in this direction has been slow compared to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The readiness assessment measured nine fundamental components to determine the strengths, gaps, challenges and way forward for implementing e-GP.

The assessment sampled 35 public entities, and 10 additional entities provided information on their procurement performance and information and communication technology status.

The country's readiness was ranked using the Likert scale out of 4, on which Namibia scored 2,25, which is moderately satisfactory.

Out of the nine components assessed, only one was satisfactory, which involved policies.

The rest were all moderately satisfactory, with no existing e-procurement platform to serve as a benchmark within the country.

The data indicated that 94% of procurement officers have access to computers, but there was no indication of the country's internet strength and speed or availability.

In his presentation, Brand highlighted the challenges that could hinder the roll-out of e-GP, including the late or no publication of annual procurement plans for public entities.

"Inadequate publication of annual procurement plans [is a challenge], and hence the heightened issue of transparency, delays, and budget overruns," he said.

Annual procurement plans detail the goods and services public entities would need within the span of a year.

The presentation recommended the establishment of monitoring instruments for the publishing of annual procurement plans.

Brand said an e-GP strategy and action plan, and the government's commitment of resources to the e-GP system need to be developed and endorsed.

He also recommend the preparation of a price guide would provide procuring entities with a basis for procurement estimation, a benchmark for evaluation, and would define the quality standards for procurement items.

DIGITAL ECONOMY

Digital economy relies on digital infrastructure, Brand said.

He said e-procurement would be successful only if the public and private sectors have full access to computers and uninterrupted internet connectivity.

According to the PPU, the e-GP system could also host the National Data Centre and the Disaster Recovery Centre.

The PPU said the e-GP system should be equipped with interoperability so that supporting information can be exchanged with the government and other e-services.

The development of a basic e-GP system would allow for the centralised registration of public entities, overseeing authorities and bidders.

The system would allow bidders to access procurement information, play host to notice publications, bidding documents, links to information, and relevant contact details.

The e-GP committee recommended that the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) develop an e-GP system in a phased approach, with the first phase to determine the rolling out of remaining phases.

The OPM is, however, still struggling to harmonise government systems to enable the full digitalisation of business registration at the Business and Intellectual Property Authority.

E-mail: [email protected]

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