Institutions in charge of public procurement in East Africa Community (EAC) member countries have been urged to embrace electronic methods of issuing public tenders in a bid to prevent corruption and other malpractices.
The call was made by the Minister of Economic Planning and Finance, Uzziel Ndagijimana, on Thursday, April 15.
He was speaking at the 13th East African Procurement Forum- an annual event that brings together heads of public procurement regulatory bodies from EAC member states to discuss ways to ensure smooth and transparent public procurement.
It was also attended by researchers, members of the private sector and civil society among others.
This year's forum brought together over 300 participants from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Tanzania. It also had other participants attending virtually.
The two-day meeting runs under the theme "Strengthening integrity and accountability in public procurement for an effective emergency response."
According to Ndagijimana, public procurement plays a central role in good governance when it is characterized by transparency, integrity, and fairness among other virtues, a reason why there should be a modernized way of issuing public tenders so as to ensure fair public procurement.
"Public expenditures are done through public procurement, literally, the international budget excluding salaries and a few other budget lines.
These large amounts of public spending create temptation to corruption, the reason why we need proper legal and regulatory frameworks for public procurement and their proper enforcement," he said.
He added: "We need to modernize our public procurement, including digitization to minimize human contact and intervention. The latter creates opportunities for corruption and malpractices."
In 2017, Rwanda adopted the Umucyo e-Procurement System, a portal through which bidders submit their proposals and quotations, reducing physical interaction between them and procurement officials.
Since then, according to statistics by the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA), 19,850 tenders were published, about 85,000 bids processed, and 16,976 contracts were awarded to competent bidders through the portal.
A total of 210 procuring entities used the system.
Harmonized way of responding to problems
According to Joyeuse Uwingeneye, Director General of RPPA, with the outbreak of Covid-19, EAC member countries did not stop issuing public tenders.
Nonetheless, she said, the exercise faced several challenges brought by the pandemic, hence the need to put in place rightful mechanisms that will help confront future calamities.
"During Covid-19, EAC countries adopted different solution-oriented initiatives. In this meeting, we will look at how to harmonize those initiatives and learn from each other. As EAC, our legal frameworks have to be interconnected," she briefed the press.
"The outcomes will shape the way our legal and regulatory framework are improved to cater for emergency procurement under similar circumstances such as Covid-19 and other force majeure," she added.
The East African Procurement Forum is hosted by EAC member countries on a rotational basis every year. In 2019, it was hosted by Tanzania. Because of the outbreak of Covid-19, the forum did not take place in 2020.