Mrs. Stella Addo; a rare gem redefining the procurement practice

She stands tall among her peers as a successful female procurement practitioner; wielding over 23 years of experience in the profession, she appears the ideal model of this noble line of work and if for nothing at all, her knack for breaking frontiers and the feats she has chalked all through her career journey, give a better testament.

Mrs. Stella Addo boasts the first female Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS-UK) as well as the first female Fellow of the Institute of Project Management Professionals (IPMP-Ghana); two top achievements to crown her illustrious career as an icon in the procurement and supply value chain across the continent.

She has blazed the trail in the procurement practice both on the local and international fronts, having carved a niche for herself as a selfless, honest and virtuous practitioner.

In her usual happy self, she narrates to the B&FT how it all began: “I was posted to the stores of the Ministry of Education when I finished my national service. I was there as a young graduate and was given three old store-men to work with.

The ministry had then acquired some motorbikes and literacy materials that were to be distributed as part of an ongoing literacy programme across the country. I entered the store for the first time and there was total chaos, immediately, I had to arrange and put things in order; I did some coding and labeling.

Later, I was tasked to arrange three warehouses to stock materials for the ministry that was to be distributed across the country, which I did to perfection; and that was how my journey started.”

But she adds quickly that it has not been a rosy career journey for her, citing instances where she had to tackle the “block” of having a young and fresh graduate dictating to grown up men how to go about procurement in a more organised and orderly manner.

From keeping the stores, she rose through the ranks as an Assistant Procurement Officer to become Senior Procurement Officer through to Principal Procurement Officer to subsequently become the Procurement Manager at the Ministry of Education.

After serving in the public service for nine years, Mrs. Addo shifted to the private sector where she practiced for 13 years including working with Crown Agents Ghana Limited—a private firm—before joining Fidelity Bank as the Head of Procurement for three years.

Currently, she is the Country Manager of CIPS-Ghana, an institution that is changing the face of the procurement practice in the country.

Steering through a male-dominated profession, she recounts several times where she had to explain herself to her bosses to get their buy-in on certain issues.

“In all of this, I was very resilient and determined because I wanted to do something remarkable for myself; several times, women tend to be timid and laid back because they fear what might happen if they stood their grounds but that was not for me.

I believe what men can do, women can equally do so most of the time, I was able to get the men to understand that I was only bringing my ideas to make their work easier while tapping their experience; and not to “control” them.”

She added: “I was very determined in whatever step I took all through my career journey. My resistance came in the form of male dominance but I was able to fight to break that barrier.”

CIPS in Ghana

Mrs. Stella Addo is the brain behind the opening of the Ghana Office of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS-UK) sometime in October last year, after having presented a case that the country was very serious about procurement following the setting up of a special ministry to supervise the practice.

The institute, with its headquarters in the United Kingdom, operates in over 100 countries in the world with about 180,000 members and conducts about 70,000 examinations annually across the globe.

To her, the presence of CIPS in Ghana will go a long way in fostering professionalism and high standards in the practice of procurement both in the public and corporate business environment.

She shared with the B&FT: “CIPS has a lot of resources and experience that can be leveraged to help in procurement; we are in Ghana to help government to achieve its procurement aims. More specifically, we intend to do a lot of stakeholder engagements that will enable us to empower both individuals and corporate in terms of improving their skills and knowledge as well as processes and procedures.”

In the medium to long-term, Mrs. Addo indicated that the institute hopes to serve as the voice of the procurement profession in Ghana and also groom and license procurement professionals in the country to get global recognition.

Sanitising the procurement practice

Assessing the procurement practice in the country, the renowned procurement expert pointed out that there are some loopholes that must be tightened to ensure professionalism in the procurement practice in the country.

The first thing she proposed was the need to get the law regulating the profession to “bite” people whose activities go contrary to laid down processes and procedures as stipulated in the Procurement Law.

She said: “We have a law that is not biting. When people things outside the scope of the law, there should be punitive measure that should be taken and that is provided in the law.”

She believes that when a practitioner defaults, misprocures or cause financial loss to the state, they should be made to face the sanctions as prescribed in the Procurement Law, which could be a jail term or paying the equivalent of prescribed penalty points.

“Most people doing procurement are using the public purse and so they must be accountable,” she added.

Another measure she proposed is the need to license and attach validity period to license holders so that practitioners can apply for renewals having met a set criteria including career development and being at par with latest trends in the profession within the period of practice.

This, she opines, will put them in check as defaulters risk losing their license if it is established that they acted contrary to the ethics and standards of the profession.

‘I think people will sit up if they have a license that can be revoked; I believe if we do that as a country, it will help a lot and we can guard the public purse better aside deterring others from engaging in malfeasances.

Last but not least, Mrs. Addo is of the firm conviction that if we could get procurement professionals at whatever level to perform to their maximum best, there should be that room for autonomy.

That kind of environment where officers practising in both the public and private spheres are allowed operate without influence from their superiors—who are mostly not procurement savvy and whose interference hinders ultimate performance.

Grooming the next generation of female practitioners

As a selfless leader, Mrs. Addo’s love for the profession goes beyond generations as she dreams of a day that more women will take up the trade and make strides that will help the course of the country.

To her, there is the need for female executives in the procurement profession and others working in various spheres of business to upgrade themselves and excel when opportunities are offered to them.

One of such opportunities is a project she currently working on dubbed “Women in Procurement; an initiative that will empower young ladies aspiring to take up the procurement profession. I intend to be a role model for women executives.

“I believe it is the practical experiences we share will help to groom the next generation of practitioners through mentoring and coaching sessions to bring their talent to the fore,” she said with enthusiasm

Mrs. Stella Addo rounded up an interesting and insightful discussion with a noble charge to all women in leadership: “It is time for women to prove that they can equally do what men can do; women will have to stand up and be counted because such recognition will not be given on a silver platter.”