The national public procurement authority in Sierra Leone

Author: 
UNDP

When more than 10 years of civil war in Sierra Leone ended in January 2002, President Kabbah was faced not only with establishing peace, but also with rebuilding and improving the institutions of Government, many of which had collapsed during the war. One critical institution was the public procurement agency and President Kabbah asked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support his government in assessing the current status of public procurement in Sierra Leone and in helping design a better approach to procurement for the country.

It was estimated that in 2002 expenditure through public procurement, which is the purchasing by the government of infrastructure, goods and goods, accounted for around 30% of countries economy. Yet the laws and regulations for public procurement were outdated and not comprehensive – and anyway not adhered to. The main problems were that the roles of organizations were not clear; there was limited understanding of public procurement and virtually no oversight of the process. As a result service delivery such as health and education were not able to respond to the needs of the people. On the other hand, there was support from the highest level of government for improving public procurement. A number of government organisations involved in procurement and international partners were prepared to support for reform. These conditions created a good opportunity to the launch of a procurement capacity development programme.

Response

By the end of 2002 a team of UNDP procurement advisors working with Government counterparts had conducted a rapid capacity assessment. The findings were reviewed and discussed in a workshop attended by key stakeholders, including representatives from government, private sector and development partners. The outcome of the workshop was an action plan designed to address the immediate bottlenecks, as well as a framework for a comprehensive capacity assessment leading to a long-term capacity development plan.

Initiatives for immediate implementation included establishing a Procurement Reform Secretariat to lead the process and preparing and implementing interim procurement guidelines. A group of “procurement champions” from key Ministries was identified and it played an active role in implementing these initiatives. These priority initiatives were able to get the procurement system up and running again.

Phase two was set in motion by a comprehensive capacity assessment that entailed the collection and analysis of both the quality and efficiency of procurement. The assessment was led by the Government Procurement Reform Secretariat, chaired by the Vice President and supported by UNDP. By May 2004 a fully implementable Capacity Development Strategy was in place.

The strategy focused on the reform of the public procurement system in Sierra Leone and the development of the capacity of institutions involved in public procurement, including the Ministries and Departments, the Central Tender Board, Local Government, the educational institutions and the supplier community.

It entailed new Procurement Legislation, enacted by parliament in 2004, and the development of associated regulations and manuals. The National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) was established, together with a regulatory and monitoring body and the Independent Procurement Review Panel (IPRP), serving as a complaints handling body. Institutional arrangements were put in place for procurement within ministries and other government institutions. Learning activities were included in the plan and ranged from initiatives targeting procurement practitioners and the civil society (national leaders, the private sector, media). Close ties were developed with the civil service commission and the anti-corruption commission to pursue initiatives of common interest. Partnerships were forged with educational institutions to develop curriculum related to public procurement. Since transparency in public procurement was identified as a key challenge, a national procurement website was established as early as 2004, providing wide-ranging information on public procurement to the general public.

Results

Procurement compliance and performance monitoring is today a regular practice in Sierra Leone. Compared to the situation in the 2002 the country has come far in the establishment of a functioning public procurement system, with a robust legal framework, a small but growing cadre of procurement professionals and a high level of attention and interest from the civil society (private sector and media). The concrete achievements are:

  • The responsibility for the development of procurement capacities is now a core function of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) which will ensure the sustainability of this endeavour.
  • The NPPA is active in the international public procurement community and actively takes opportunities for southsouth exchange to learn from and share experiences with other countries.
  • The strong political support to improve public procurement, led by the President and the Vice-President, has been sustained, following a change in Government.
  • A wide range of interested organisations have been engaged throughout and this continues to be the case. Their participation from the beginning in conducting the assessment and in designing the solutions has ensured that ownership is not restricted to the NPPA, but is spread throughout many institutions both within and outside government.

However, challenges remain in ensuring compliance with the framework, as well as improving the performance and quality of goods, infrastructure and service delivery to the general public.

Year of publication: 
2010
Collection: 
UNDP Capacity is Development: Stories of Institutions
Country: 
SIERRA LEONE
Themes and sectors: 
Public administration

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