June 15, 2009

Experts seek increased public participation in procurement processes

By Michael Eboh
Following the recent signing of the  Public Procurement Act (PPA) and the setting up of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), experts in the sector have called for increased participation by all Nigerians, through effective monitoring of all procurement exercises in the public sector.
Speaking at a forum organised by the International Press Centre (IPC) in conjunction with the World Bank on the role of the BPP and implementation of the PPA, in Lagos, Tuesday, the experts were of the opinion that increased public involvement will ensure that transparency and objectivity are enshrined in the procurement process.

According to Barrister Chibuzor Ekwekwuo, Legal Consultant to the BPP, the Public Procurement Act has achieved the record of been the first law that allowed increased participation from the general public, and he urged the public to take advantage of this provision of the law to ensure transparency and greater monitoring of procurement processes.

He said, “The new Public Procurement Act has allowed for wider and increased public participation, in the sense that certain provisions of the law have made it possible for individuals, Civil Society Organisation or other social or pressure groups to follow any given procurement process carefully, obtain vital documents relating to the process, monitor, ask questions where necessary and provide necessary feedback to the government.

The BPP has been very effective in the discharge of its functions, and it should be important to note that if the BPP fails in the future, the blame will not be on it alone, but also, the blame will be heaped on the doorstep of the general public for their failure to monitor, report and give feedback to the BPP on the progress of contracts awarded.”

He, however, lamented the failure of the government to constitute the Board of the National Council on Public Procurement, calling for its immediate set up of the Council so as to enable it to carry out its legislative functions, that are critical to the success of the Act.

He identified the functions of the BPP to include; the formulation of general policies and guidelines relating to public sector procurement, to publicise and explain provisions of the Act, monitor prices of tendered items and keep a national database of standard prices, publish details of major contracts in the procurement journal, publish paper and electronic editions of the procurement journal and maintain an archival system for the journal, maintain a national database among others.

Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda, called for the amendment of certain aspects of the Procurement Act so as to make it easy for the public to effectively participate in a broader sense in the processes.

He commended the BPP for its effort at ensuring accountability, honesty and transparency in the process of procurement and in the award and execution of contracts, noting that the rigorous documentation of procurement proceedings and the publicity being given to the process will further help in ensuring proper monitoring and increased participation by the public.