21 June 2001 | David Arminas
Poor procurement practices by the World Bank and other institutions running development projects are wasting millions that could be channeled into debt relief for third world countries, according to a purchasing expert.
Tim Tucker, who has spent the last 20 years working in procurement with the World Bank and European Union, has called for a major revamp of the institution's purchasing practices.
"The world's press is full of the problems of third world debt, yet the large contribution of bad buying practices to these problems is hardly ever mentioned," he writes in this issue of SM. "It is time this was more widely understood."
Tucker calls the bank's procurement methods a bureaucratic "nightmare". He alleges that purchasers are drowning in paperwork, time delays in closing contracts stretch into months and supplier development is totally against the rules.
"The bureaucracy is staggering," he writes. "In areas of the former Soviet Union, I was told that the World Bank was more bureaucratic than anything seen under the Russians."
Tucker adds that there is an over-reliance by the World Bank and other development agencies on setting up a large order, but for very diverse commodities that could include car spares, karaoke machines and vegetable seed. This would inevitably mean the bank is beholden to a chain of middlemen, with each taking a big cut for their services.
Development banks also depend too heavily on advertising in local media for suppliers and the institutions frown upon contacting suppliers directly to get to know them.
No one from the World Bank was available for comment.