World Bank procurement reform: concerns over funding and skills

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 July 2015

An overhaul of procurement at the World Bank Group has raised questions over the level of funding available and the ability of staff to support the changes.

A new procurement framework for the bank has been produced, which is to be presented to the board of executive directors on 21 July for final approval, and involves a more project-specific approach to setting purchasing strategy.

Under the proposed new rules, which govern how cash loaned to countries is spent, borrowers will work with bank staff to produce a procurement strategy for each project and bank staff will also have a role in “borrower capacity building”.

In a report the bank said that following a consultation “it was widely recognised that effective implementation of the framework would require a culture change among bank staff, particularly with regard to providing hands-on expanded implementation support”.

The report said an independent benchmarking process found “the procurement skills of the top 10 per cent of bank procurement staff compare favourably with those of the best-in-class of benchmark comparators”.

In a blog entitled World Bank procurement reform: some notes for the board, Jeffrey Gutman, former vice president of operations policy and country services at the bank, welcomed the changes. But he added: “With only 10 per cent of bank procurement staff considered to be ‘best-in-class’ relative to comparator organisations – a relatively poor percentage for a normative and advisory institution – the plan’s targets for the next few years seem very optimistic.”

Gutman, a senior fellow in the global economy and development programme at think tank the Brookings Institution, who produced the blog in partnership with Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, and Daniel Runde, director of the project on prosperity and development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, added: “This reform clearly requires more from the bank and its staff, and meeting these new demands will come with a significant price tag.

“A real test of the bank’s commitment to the reform is whether it will truly fund the capacity building element. Will it put its money behind its policy?”

In the report the bank said a training and development programme would be created. “In management’s view the bank has enough staff with the skills needed to begin incremental implementation of this framework,” said the report.

The bank acknowledged the framework “will require additional resources”. “Management has allocated sufficient funds to implement the new framework, including funding for extensive training and development activities to establish the framework,” said the report.

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