E-tendering: Right step at right time | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 10, 2011

E-tendering: Right step at right time

Introduction of electronic procurement in the country, though on a limited scale, is a very welcome step.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been acclaimed for her vision for a Digital Bangladesh, opened the national Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) Web Portal (www.eprocure.gov.bd) on June 2.
Electronic tendering will start after registration of the bidders. The registration with the e-GP system will be offered after the inauguration of the e-GP portal developed by the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) within the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Ministry of Planning.
The CPTU has been implementing the Public Procurement Reform Project-II with the financial assistance of the World Bank. Introducing electronic government procurement in the country is Component 3 of the project.
The Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED), Roads and Highways Department (RHD), Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and Rural Electrification Board (REB) are the four target agencies under PPRP-II.
Pursuant to Section 65 of the Public Procurement Act, 2006 the government has already approved the e-GP guidelines. As per approved guidelines, e-GP system is being introduced in two phases.
In the first phase, e-Tendering will primarily be introduced in four procuring entities of the four target agencies; then in the CPTU and 16 procuring entities (PEs) under the four target agencies -- BWDB, LGED, RHD and REB.
The system will gradually be rolled out to 308 PEs of those four agencies up to district level and ultimately it will be expanded to all the PEs of the government.
In the second phase, e-Contract Management System (e-CMS) will be introduced covering complete contract management processes such as work plan submission, defining milestone, tracking and monitoring progress, generating reports, performing quality checks, generation of running bills, vendor rating and generation of completion certificate.
Apart from introducing e-GP, the CPTU is implementing the PPRP-II to increase procurement capacity, improve procurement performance and raise greater awareness about the importance and outcomes of procurement among the stakeholders.
The e-GP is being introduced in line with the government vision for building a Digital Bangladesh and turn it into a middle income country by 2021.
In this age of technology no country can lag behind as it is now globally recognised that the right use of technology can reduce time and costs, thus removing the tangles in the delivery of services, particularly by the government.
The aim of building digital Bangladesh is not to create a digital divide. Rather, the government wants to provide services to both the urban and rural people by the means of ICT for improving their quality of life.
The e-GP system is a single web portal from where and through which procuring entities (PEs) will be able to perform their procurement related activities using a dedicated secured web-based dashboard. The e-GP system is hosted in e-GP Data Center at CPTU. The e-GP web portal is accessible by the PEs, bidders and others concerned through internet.
The e-GP has been operational in some states of India, South Korea, China and some other countries in Asia. Their experiences show that the use of e-GP in public procurement reduces costs and time. Moreover, the system is safe and secure.
In Bangladesh, it can be a very effective tool to ensure transparency and accountability in the process of public procurement because the acts and rules have to be followed by default in e-GP. The CPTU has launched online monitoring of the procurement performance through the Procurement Management Information System (PROMIS).
So, any violation in the process will automatically be detected from the data provided by the PEs to the PROMIS.
The hassles in dropping tenders have been a much talked about issue here. In the e-GP the bidders need not be physically present to submit their tenders to the PEs. They can submit tenders online from home. This will widen the opportunity for competition. The essence of public procurement is to ensure transparency, accountability, equal opportunity and fair competition.
It is true that the integration of the entire procurement cycle, including the PROMIS, into e-GP will take time. But the technology will benefit all actors immensely in the conduct of public procurement. The objective of public procurement is to raise the quality of life of the people through creation of employment and improvement of the infrastructure.
To make this happen, the quality of the government purchase must improve. For this, the Public Procurement Rules (PPR 2008) are the legal tools under the Public Procurement Act (PPA 2006). The government has also amended the act and rules for quickening the implementation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP).
About 75% of the ADP allocation is spent on public procurement. So the more PPR is followed in procurement, the more will be the implementation.
The PPR 2008 is a complete document for public procurement that provides scope for procurement under different methods, as per the necessity and situation, with permission from the appropriate authority.
Meanwhile, the CPTU has completed all preparations to put the e-GP system in place. Training and demonstration has been going on through e-GP staging server (www.staging.eprocure.gov.bd). Anybody can log on to it and give opinions. The World Bank has extended financial support to the Public Procurement Reform Project-II under which the government has been carrying out different reform activities to streamline the sector.
There are some infrastructural problems, like low internet connectivity and shortage of power. The Post and Telecommunications Minister Razi Uddin Ahmed Razu recently said at the inaugural programme organised on the occasion of the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day on May 17 that over the last two years and three months tele-density in the country has increased to 45% from 32%, and the internet-density has increased to 7% from 3%.
The power situation has been a big challenge, but the government has to overcome it to materialise its promise to the people to build a Digital Bangladesh by 2021.

The writer is Communications and Social Awareness Consultant, PPRP-II, CPTU, IMED.

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