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Procurement profession regulation long overdue

CORRESPONDENT
Early last month, the gods smiled on local Accountants and Auditors as Parliament passed the Financial Reporting (Amendments) Bill to correct the anomalies in the Financial Reporting Act 2010 and Accountants Act.

While there are so many bodies that have been set up to regulate their professions, I wish to take this opportunity to applaud BICA for the stellar job they have been doing over the years in advocating for the Accounting profession.

The objective of this piece is however not to decode the recently passed Bill, but rather to discuss the urgent need to expeditiously pass a Bill to license and regulate the procurement professionals who practise both in the public and private sector.

First of all I have to admit that I have been made aware by my fellow cadres in the supply chain profession that similar calls have been made to the relevant ministry before advocating for the licensing and regulation of procurement professionals. For instance, in March 2017 the current Botswana CIPS branch chairperson, Amuchilani Kgabo, at a panel discussion organised by the University of Botswana is on record saying: “Government, through the Act of Parliament should establish the professional body regulating the affairs of procurement profession.”

Similarly in 2000, when the then Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply UK CEO, Ken James officially launched Botswana CIPS branch, his mission was to see a fully regulated and licensed procurement profession in Botswana in years to come. Unfortunately, it appears like such calls have always reached a busy signal as 10 years down the line there’s no law that covers procurement professionals practising in the public and the private sector in Botswana. This is the reason why some thugs who masquerade as procurement professionals continue to bring not only the profession but the entire country into disrepute, casting doubts on whether the industry upholds ethical, moral and professional standards.

The arrival of the new Minister of Finance and Economic Development has given us a glimmer of hope to take a second bite at the cherry and once again call for the tabling of the Bill on the licencing and regulation of procurement professionals practising not only in government but including those in the private sector.

The delay in passing the Bill in question, if at all it is in the pipeline, continues to have adverse effects on both the government and the private sector hence escalating reports of procurement corruption, fraud, professional misconduct which have been on the rise for some time and recently reached unprecedented levels during sourcing of Personal protective equipment (PPEs). This delay has also contributed to the continued loss of confidence in the procurement process, overspending on procurement, delayed implementation of projects as a result of court cases and the trivialising of the procurement profession in Botswana, which has led to failure to recognise it as a scarce skill despite well-documented evidence that the demand of the profession far exceeds the supply.

As proof, in March 2017, the then assistant minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso when answering a question posed by Mephato Reatile on why there were so many unfilled vacancies in administrative district and councils lamented that “the major challenges in filling vacancies include acute supply of skilled candidates in the market for positions such as assistant managers in the field of procurement, principal state counsels, physical planners and engineers”. It can be recognised that all the aforementioned professions are categorised as scarce skills save for procurement despite clear admission by the powers that be that there is a shortage of qualified procurement professionals. It is very disheartening that previous similar calls to license procurement professionals have fallen on deaf ears despite the power that procurement professionals possess due to the following reasons.

In most government and private organisations, the bulk of the money goes into procurement of goods and services hence the

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need to ensure that those entrusted with the task of procuring adhere to certain professional and ethical standards in execution of their duties. Procurement has been proven to be a high-risk field vulnerable to acts of corruption and professional misconduct as we recently saw with a surge in the number of corruption-related cases in the procurement of PPEs. This should serve as wake up call to move swiftly to address the root cause of the problem, which can be partly attributed to the absence of legislation to license and regulate procurement professionals across the public and the private sector.  To further demonstrate the power of procurement, in 2008 a report by Woodcock highlighted that across Africa, government procurement averages 10% of GDP and accounts for 70% of public expenditure as in the case of Tanzania and Uganda.

The 2018 World Bank report on public procurement indicates that Botswana procures 28% of its GDP, a figure slightly higher compared to its counterparts while in February 2020 when delivering a budget speech Thapelo Matsheka informed members on the house that 80% of the proposed P12.03 billion development budget was going to be reserved for the continued implementation of ongoing projects such as Water, Energy Roads ICT sectors, which will all know are sourced through public procurement process.

The same holds true for the private sector organisations where expenditure on procurement often runs into millions of pula. The call I am making is not a far-fetched one as many countries in Africa and across the world have made great strides in licencing and regulating the procurement profession both in public and private sector, moves which proved to have brought the much needed hygiene and sanitisation to the procurement profession against the cancer of corruption.  Some of the notable countries, which have success stories, are Ghana, Zambia and Kenya.

When announcing the legislation on licencing and regulation of procurement professionals in 2015, Chris Oanda chairperson of Kenya Institute of Supplies Management sent a stern warning that “there should not be any procurement and supply chain officer in public or private sector who is not registered with the Kenya Institute of Purchasing and Supply”. He further declared that if there is any such officer, then both the officer and the employing organisation are in breach of the law and are liable to sanction, heralding a new dawn in the field of procurement in Kenya and echoing the words we so wish to hear one day as procurement professionals in Botswana. This is the perfect time to pass the much-desired Bill at time when we are talking economic transformation, prudent financial management and grappling with anti-money laundering because procurement will indeed play a key role in the attainment of the aforementioned objectives.

Once the Bill has been passed, we would expect to have an independent body that will work hand-in-hand with organisations such as Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), which is currently driving the agenda of professionalising and regulating procurement in the public sector and CIPS, which cuts across the public and private sector to develop an institution more like BICA, which will focus on the following objectives: development of Botswana’s supply chain qualification in line with global standards, certification of local practitioners both in public and private sector, development of disciplinary committee to deal with wayward members and development of procurement supply chain competency basement tools for local practitioners.  

MATLHOGONOLO A. MAANO*

*Matlhogonolo A. Maano-MCIPS is a Chartered Procurement Professional who writes in his personal capacity. Feedback to the article can be sent to maano316@yahoo.com. This article is of a general nature and is not meant to address any particular person, or organisation



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