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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bangladesh procurement reform

Citizen engagement in procurement
The process of public procurement had exclusively been confined to the government procuring entities and the members of the private bidding community like contractors, suppliers and intellectual service providers since the British era.

The scope for public access to such information has not been as wide as of today. And the good intention of the government is reflected in the remarks of the minister in the first meeting of the PPSC that day. He said, "This is a step forward from our traditional age-old practices, often controversial and opaque, and so predicates the necessity of an articulated balance in the short run. It is my view that we must begin and the sooner it is, the better will be for improving governance in public procurement practices in Bangladesh.

Headed by the Minister for Planning, the 27-member PPSC comprises representatives from the business community, private sector, bidding community, civil society, media and academics.

Public procurement is a governance issue. To ensure discipline in the sector, the Public Procurement Act 2006 and the Public Procurement Rules 2008 were made effective since January 31, 2008.

The bidding community, procuring entities and other stakeholders of public procurement are not yet fully equipped with the knowledge and skills of the provisions of PPR. Compliance with any law or rules becomes easier when the concerned stakeholders are aware about the benefits and necessity of abiding by those provisions. Experiences show that the more they are informed and convinced, the more is the compliance level.

Social accountability and citizen engagement in public procurement will benefit all concerned in the process. The procuring entities and the bidders will abide by provisions of the PPR in all their procurement activities, thus ensuring transparency. If transparency is ensured in any process, then there is no difficulty in being accountable.

Before, the Official Secrets Act was in place in Bangladesh. This was often used as an excuse for not disclosing even any harmless but necessary public information. The government has repealed it. A culture of openness in the public service is being established with the disclosure of citizen charters for all government entities. Citizen charters can be made more effective and meaningful and it is expected that in course of time it will be done. Moreover, the good intention of the government to build a digital Bangladesh by 2012 will further remove barriers to the path of disclosing public information and delivering public services.

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