Zimbabwe and Swaziland lag behind in procurement reform

26 August 2010

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26 August 2010 | Nick Martindale

Swaziland and Zimbabwe run the risk of being left behind in the quest to introduce common procurement systems and processes among the 19 members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

A COMESA spokesperson told SM that 12 countries had now passed laws and guidelines that made them “nearly fully compliant” with the body’s procurement directive. This involves two phases. The first focuses on developing modern procurement law and regulations, including standard bidding documents and the examination of evaluation criteria. The second stage covers framework agreements, e-purchasing, green procurement, public-private partnership arrangements and more. These latter arrangements are currently under discussion.

The seven countries falling behind, including Swaziland and Zimbabwe, were encouraged to make quicker progress towards establishing a common approach at a meeting of member states in August. A public procurement reform bill is close to being passed in Swaziland, which would bring it into line with many of the COMESA requirements.

A COMESA spokesperson said: “The harmonisation effort will continue until the remaining seven countries are on board, but the emphasis now is on the formation of an internal market on tenders.

“Member states are now compelled under the regulation to advertise tender notices on the PROMIS [COMESA procurement information system] platform and to accept all suppliers that submit bids and subject them to the usual evaluation on a non-discriminatory basis. Increased competition will also help lower prices.”

But Joseph Ogachi, procurement consultant and researcher at the Centre for Advanced Procurement Studies in Kenya and a member of the online community Procurement Initiatives Africa, said there were a number of issues that needed to be resolved before countries could implement the regional regulations.

“It is unclear whether all the government agencies should submit the plans,” he said. “If so, it would be a gigantic task for COMESA since there are thousands of entities for each country. It is also unclear whether the Secretariat is ready to reasonably consolidate such information in the absence of a good electronic system.”

The threshold at which countries would need to submit procurement plans for tenders was also unresolved, he added.

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