Corruption is one of the major global challenges that confront many nations. This is often seen in the public sector which the procurement processes are carried out. In order to curb the challenges that come with contract processes, many countries are making a switch to electronic procurement (e-procurement) systems, also known as e-GP systems.
East African country Rwanda has become the first African country to adopt the E-Procurement system on a national level. They have done so in the shortest time possible as compared to other countries.
A New Procurement law was passed in 2007 which led to the establishment of the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority. In order to learn how the system works, officials from the country traveled to the Republic of Korea to learn about their experience in electronic procurement system which is one of the most advanced in the world.
The World Bank in 2013 supported the feasibility study on how the e-GP system will be implemented. This helped the country identify major challenges and solutions were also recommended. Some of the challenges include; inconvenient business registration, inaccurate management information, and analytics, lack of one-stop procurement portal and inefficient document and records management system (The New Times).
By the recommendations of the World Bank, Rwanda adopted the e-GP system called UMUCYO which translates to ‘Transparency’ in their local language.
How the UMUCYO works
It consists of an online portal with advertisement modules, e-bidding, and disposal, evaluation, contract management, inspection and acceptance, framework agreements, shopping catalog where supplies can register and submit bids online. (The New Times). This system is open to all including Rwandan nationals and foreign bidders. When anyone registers, the system will automatically access the database of the Rwanda Development Board to verify their registration status for bidders and qualification.
With a bid accepted, the system allows a draft of the contract to be sent to the winning bidder for review. With the acceptance (electronic signature) of the contract by the supplier, it will be shared with Rwanda’s Financial Management Information System (SmartFMS) to issue a purchase order and to make payments.
In July 2016 with the support of the World Bank, the e-GP procurement system was launched in eight government ministries, agencies, and districts.
Before the program was launched there was the training of government officials from selected communities in business that need the E-procurement system. Media awareness was carried out to encourage contractors and suppliers to register in the new system. This was also extended to internet café operators and small and medium-scale enterprises to have access opportunities in public procurement.
The overall project cost $7.8 million to build the e-GP System which covered data system equipment, capacity building and ongoing cost of $1.12 million. The program was rolled out nationwide in July 2017 except for schools, district hospitals, and health centers. It will be progressively rolled out to 2019/2020.
According to Hiba Tahboub who is the Procurement Manager at the World Bank’s Governance practice, “While the initial investment in the system seems to be high, experience from around the world shows that e-procurement provides powerful cost management solutions that lead to significant savings in public spending.”
Some of the Benefits
Based on the feedback from users, the e-GP system has reduced the time and saving of cost for government officials and contractors, the use of a single portal for all documentation, eliminating in-person visits and printing costs.
The Director-General of Corporate Service in MINAGRI Yassin Iyamuremye had this to say, “The Procurement management of the Ministry has significantly improved as the result of use of the E-Procurement system.”
“The system also contributed in reducing fraud and corruption as there is no personal contact with bidders, and when complaints are received, these are responded to through the E-Procurement system in a transparent way.”
With the assessment of the World Bank of Rwanda’s e-GP system shows the system and its implementation were in line with good international practices and could be used for World Bank-financed projects.
In summarizing the benefits of the e-Procurement systems, the Director General of Rwanda Public Procurement Authority, Augustus Seminega said, “Government procurement officials should take advantage of the time saved in transactions to ensure compliance, transparency, competition, fairness and dedicate more time to achieve value for money, efficiency, and effectiveness.”
Credit: The New Times