An innovative approach has brought a big boost in efficiency, as well as bringing down costs.
To most of us the paperless office may seem as far away as ever, but in Dubai paperless procurement is an everyday reality. Dubai Municipality, the government organisation responsible for planning, designing, building and managing the city’s municipal infrastructure, has become the first government department in the Emirate to introduce web-based automation across its entire procurement cycle.
With a population of 2.2m, the city of Dubai is one of the world’s fastest growing urban economies. The transformation of its economy – 70% of the city’s GDP is now derived from services – has driven the growth of its procurement arm.
Back in the 1950s, Dubai Municipality consisted of three staff working in one room. Today, it has more than 13,000 employees in 32 different organisational units. Such scale and complexity is not easy to manage but the department has not been afraid to innovate.
One obvious target, given the organisation had a stated strategic goal of achieving environmental sustainability, was paper. The department’s traditional procurement processes had been generating up to 300,000 sheets of paper a year. That was the spur for the department to launch a project that would create more efficient, agile and ecologically friendly procedures. The aim was to cut paper usage to zero and develop a transparent procurement system that would be more cost-effective and work more satisfactorily for suppliers.
The contracts and purchasing department introduced integrated electronic systems, including E-Supplier, I-Supplier and E-Committee, to create an automated process in which many key aspects of the procurement cycle – including the issuing of requirements, the collection and evaluation of supplier proposals and the awarding of contracts – are managed entirely online. The next step will be to enable the bidding of tender projects online.
Eng Ebrahim Yaqoub, director of the contracts and purchasing department, says this project has had a marked effect on reducing administrative pressures and accelerating decision-making. “It reduces time and increases corporate governance, as well as reducing manual errors since more than 4,000 requests are sent out per year,” he says.
Dubai Municipality’s use of automated procedures in the procurement cycle, which was recognised at last year’s CIPS’ Middle East awards as the most improved purchasing operation in the region, has become an example of best practice to the Emirate’s other government departments.
This achievement is one aspect of an ambitious wider project that seeks to establish Dubai as the world’s leading ‘smart city’ by 2017. This initiative, on which the government spent £514m in 2015, envisages the widespread implementation of automated systems to create a connected, safe and efficient infrastructure that will involve 100 projects and the transformation of 1,000 government services.
Is this Dubai City's smartest move yet?
At the heart of Dubai’s smart city strategy is a digital initiative called, Silicon Oasis. It’s easy to be sceptical about such projects but this is a multi-billion pound commitment by the government, which is designed to transform the city. The ambition is to drive change by bringing together large companies, start-ups, venture capital and higher education. The electronic procurement process, developed by the Dubai Municipality, is just one illustration of how the smart city can change the way the metropolis lives, works and does business.