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General News of Thursday, 31 May 2007

Source: GNA

Procurement meeting for C'wealth nations opens

Accra, May 31, GNA - Participants from 10 Commonwealth countries in Africa are meeting in Accra to consider issues that shape the decisions of the public sector and the opportunities they presented for evolving a more effective framework for enhanced public procurement performance. The second Commonwealth Public Procurement Network (CPPN) forum has drawn participants from Ghana, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Botswana and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Mr. Kaifala Marah, Adviser, Public Expenditure Management, Commonwealth Secretariat, expressing dismay about Africa's economic performance, said while African nations were still battling with aid and debt, their South East Asian counterparts accumulated reserves at levels higher than perceived.

Citing last year for instance, he said seven South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) were able to hold over 1,500 billion dollars in foreign reserves, with the trend still rising, while Africa was grappling and struggling.

Mr. Marah said what was needed was a handful of people with dedication and passion to change how things were done in Africa. "It has never taken a whole country to initiate a change, neither has it taken a class of men to achieve one. In reality, change comes and has always come or was made possible by a handful, if not few men with focus," he said.

"Change has little to do with law, rules and regulations but has more to do with willpower, belief, passion and the unvanquished fire to get things done," he added. Mr. Marah therefore threw the challenge to participants to develop a pool of committed public servants that would bring about the change for Africa.

The five-day forum is under the theme: "Benchmarking, Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Procurement Systems." Mr A. B. Adjei, Chief Executive Officer, Public Procurement Board, said the extent to which a country could meet its insatiable social and economic demands depended on the effectiveness of its procurement systems since public procurement was at the centre of how public money was spent.

He said studies had shown that it was the performance of a country's procurement system that determined whether funds were sufficient to construct 10,000 or 30,000 wells or whether political leaders would be able to meet their promises of economic and social improvements.

"Thus in the conduct of benchmarking, monitoring and evaluations, some of the areas of concentration may include measuring the impact of the system on public funds, corruption and projects such as schools, roads and the procurement of other goods and services by the identified target group or entity."

Mr. Adjei said preparatory work towards efficiency should include drawing of a timetable for the process, allotting people to be in charge and providing logistics.

He said although the principle of monitoring and evaluation may sound good, its practice was not as rosy because there were a number of challenges in its practices including, financial difficulties, unwillingness of entities to give information on their procurement activities and logistics.

Ghana in spite of the challenges, he noted, had been able to develop software called the Public Procurement Model of Excellence Tool, which was being used to undertake the Benchmarking Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Procurement.

Mr. Adjei said with Ghana's new tool it had been able to score a lot of successes with the World Bank Mission Mr Akwasi Osei-Adjei, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, said the government of Ghana took the action to reform public sector procurement in the firm belief that improvement in procurement performance would have positive benefits on the economy that would outweigh any perceived concerns that may exist. "Government considers the question of effective public procurement performance as linked to the realization of the aspirations of Ghana's Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II) through the more rationalized allocation of resources and the effective delivery of expected results," he said. 31 May 07