By Wale Akinola
The book, Public Procument Policies and Practice, focusing on a vital segment of budgetting, could not have come at a better time than now when all hands ought to be on deck to fine-tune our budgetting processes.
Up till 2001, budget implementation when government procured works, goods and services for the citizenry posed a serious challenge to the economy. The challenge ranged from lack of transpancy, accountability and fairness in the public procurement processes to corruption. The processes did not deliver value for money thereby leading to stunted economic growth. It was in the course of surmounting the challenge that the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo that year (2001) set up the defunct Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (BMPIU) as part of the economic reform programme of the Federal Government to be the vanguard of sensitizing the public procurement stakeholders towards the need for a public procurement law. The BMPIU set up a model that required any contract awarded by the Federal Government to obtain a Due Process Certificate before the contract was presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
This ‘Due Process Certification’ was a confirmation that the procurement process had been complied with, the prices applied were reasonable; the contract had been properly awarded to the lowest responsive bid and progress payments were in accordance with actual work carried out.
Due Process analysed
The Due Process Mechanism provided a lucid empirical framework for the evaluation of how best to apply systems and procedures rather than moral suasion, probes and threat of punishment to checkmate administrative corruption, inject transparency, accountability and value for money in public procurement. However, a model can only be a representation of reality. It was in realisation of this that the Presidency, through BMPIU, tabled an executive bill before the National Assembly seeking the creation of the National Council on Government Procurement. The bill also required the Bureau of Public Procurement to be set up as the central office to oversee public procurement. The Public Procurement Act was signed into law in March 2007 and the Bureau took over the activities of the Due Process Office. Now, the Public Procurement Act 2007 (PPA), the National Council on Procurement and the Bureau have started to align Nigeria’s public procurement activities with best international practice. The book, Public Procurement Policies and Practices, diagnoses the PPA and the public procurement regulations issued by the Bureau in terms of public procurement policies and how the policies are being applied. It is not accidental that the book is written by Samuel S.O. Afemikhe. Afemikhe is one of Nigeria’s best hands on the subject of public procurement. A fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), his expertise on the subject is better explained by the fact that he has worked extensively for the World Bank Nigeria Country Office in the area of post-procurement reviews and public procurement analysis and review.
And to underscore Afemikhe’s deep understanding of the issues relating to public procurement policies and practice, he wrote a book earlier entitled, Budget Implementation and Value for Money:The Due Process Experience, which showed how procurement reforms could be effectively applied and entrenched to generate a Due Process Culture that drives economic growth and service delivery. The latest book benchmarks the Public Procurement Act provisions and the regulations using the Joint World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) baseline indicators tool which is the agreed standard for assessment of national procurement systems.
The main purpose of the baseline indicators is to assist each country to benchmark its procurement systems by consistently identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the systems assessed, assist in the formulation of a capacity development plan to improve its procurement system and thereby enhance the ability to track progress of reform initiatives. A 590-page book, with 13 chapters, each chapter dealing with a segment of the subject.