US Ambassador advises online bidding for contracts

The US Ambassador to Ghana Robert P. Jackson has called on government to consider using an online portal in the procurement bidding process in Ghana.

According to him, the online bidding process is one sure way of ensuring transparency and providing a level playing field for all contractors who bid for government contracts.

Robert P. Jackson spoke to the B&FT during a round table discussion organised by the American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana (AMCHAM) to mark the 2017 World Anti-Corruption Day in Accra, on the theme ‘Improving Public Procurement to Minimise Corruption’.

“If you look at the system that Chile, Brazil and some Latin American countries are using, there is a great model there that Ghana can adopt,” he said. “That model of online bidding makes it clear who is bidding, what they are bidding for, how much is the bid in question, and timelines for the bid. But here the final bid is not exposed, but the winning bid is disclosed for everyone to know what the competition is.

“So, what I am arguing for is a system that has been tried and tested in other countries which would be easy to adopt in Ghana. Some steps are being taken, but there is still some weakness within the public procurement system in the country. So, what I would like to see is transparency in the award of contracts, and the need for transparency addressed in the monitoring as well – whether it is done by the ministry in charge or the Public Procurement Authority,” Robert Jackson stated.

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American companies, he said, are of the view that Ghana has good laws which are, however, not always followed.

“For example, this whole question of if you exceed the contract by 10%: and there is also a rule that if the contract changes by 10% it has to be rebid. But if it is changing by less than 10% the tender does not have to be reissued, and yet American companies have seen the tenders being reissued – which puts them at a disadvantage. So, I am arguing that the right thing is to have the same rules and apply the rules consistently,” he said.

The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) has in recent times pressed for government to engage more professionals in public procurement in order to effectively curb corruption.

According to the institute, the corrupt acts witnessed during procurement by state institutions could be largely curbed if professionals were engaged in the process.

The B&FT understands that the Ministry of Procurement is already, in line with this, working with the Attorney General’s Department to prosecute government officials who engage in illicit procurement deals.

A Director in charge of Compliance, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Public Procurement Authority, Eric V. Appiah, said this needs to be buttressed with the engagement of professionals in the procurement process.

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“Procurement is a very integral part of the processes that government uses to transact business. Procurement professionals are important in this for two reasons:  they help you to get value for money; and also help establish tools to block those routes that politicians and other stakeholders use to corrupt a procurement process,” Eric Appiah explained.

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