Modernizing the Public Procurement System



by Glen Simon, NCPC

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REFERS TO THE PURCHASE OF GOODS, SERVICES, AND WORKS BY GOVERNMENTS USING TAXPAYER REVENUE.

The World Bank Group (WBG) has received funding under the Canada-Caribbean Resilience Facility (CRF).

The facility was established to achieve more effective and coordinated gender-informed climate-resilient preparedness, recovery, and public financial management practices in nine Caribbean countries. CRF also supports countries by deploying technical experts in the region for close partnership, collaboration and just-in-time support to accelerate the implementation of recovery projects and overall resilience building efforts across the Caribbean.

Saint Lucia has received technical assistance to undertake some of the reform activities to its Public Procurement System.

Public procurement refers to the purchase of goods, services, and works by governments and state-owned enterprises. It accounts for a significant portion of taxpayer revenue. Governments are expected to conduct public procurement efficiently and with very high standards to ensure quality of service delivery while safeguarding the public interest.



Senior Procurement Officer, in the Department of Finance, Trevor Cyril, acknowledged that in the past procurement had not been accorded the level of seriousness that it truly deserves. He was pleased however to see that Saint Lucia has now followed the path of the international community by recognizing the importance of the procurement function.

“When you look at the value of procurement on an international level, this accounts for 12 percent of government expenditure. In 2018 in Saint Lucia our GDP was $1.922 billion. Procurement as 12 percent of that would work out to about $230.6 million and that’s conservative. That is a significant amount of money and so we need to put administrative procedures and a framework in place to ensure that government taxpayer dollars are best utilized, so that we end up with the best outcome.”

With funding under the Canada-Caribbean Resilience Facility (CRF) a World Bank team undertook a review of the Post Disaster Public Financial Management (PDPFM) in Saint Lucia of which public procurement is a key component particularly in response to a disaster or emergency.

A stocktaking exercise on public procurement was conducted with relevant stakeholders during the month of August to discuss the new systems and modalities in public procurement such as e-procurement and legislative reform governing public procurement. Anthony Jean is the Assistant Director for Public Procurement, in the Department of Finance.

“It’s not only to introduce flashy systems of e-procurement and new legislation but you want the persons really impacted to feel some sense of ownership in this because it is not being done primarily for us, it’s being done for everybody. It is important that stakeholders are on board and they understand the history, the next steps, how it impacts them, how it requires them to respond and we factor that into our actions plans.”



Deputy Economist in the Department of Economic Development, Ms. Perle Alcindor, agrees that public procurement must be given greater attention as it represents government expenditure into the local economy which serves to stimulate economic activity.

“Stocktaking is very important in terms of looking at the efficiency of your projects, looking at what are your gaps in your project activity. What are the troublesome areas that need to be addressed? So, you can course-correct and become more efficient to ensure that you deliver the outcome that you contemplated in the definition of your project,” she said.

One of the key stakeholders was Calvin Lee, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Department of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy, and Labour. He noted that procurement is a critical aspect of the ministry’s functions which directly impacts the public works programme.

“Because a lot of what we do impact the general public from the point of view that, apart from the benefit of having a good road, the construction works, the repair works are normally done by locals. Whether they work for a large company or a medium-sized one, or individual contractors building drainage and small walls of that kind, they all benefit. So procurement for us is critical for us to build transparency and accountability. It accounts for a significant portion of our annual budget.”

One of the recommendations emanating from the stocktaking exercise is increased capacity building for all stakeholders in the procurement process in reference to the new tools, procedures, and legislation necessary to modernize the procurement system.



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