Verite Research Executive Director Dr. Nishan de Mel (left) and Verite Research Legal Research Head Sabrina Esufally
Pic by Waruna Wanniarachchi
Implementing an easily accessible electronic procurement (e-procurement) platform for government procurements would save the government both time and money, and allow a level playing field when bidding for procurement opportunities, Verite Research said.
“Essentially, it reduces administrative and human costs associated with procurement. And increased access opportunities,” Verite Research Legal Research Head Sabrina Esufally said.
According to her, government procurement in Sri Lanka could take months, and has to factor in costs such as advertising on newspapers, physical bid documents, their triplicates etc.
“Stopping advertising on newspapers alone could save 20 percent of the costs,” Esufally said, after noting that government procurement spending amounts to around 5.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Esufally added that a robust electronic platform could list government procurement requirements, sort them according to supplier needs and facilitate instantaneous tender document submissions and editing.
Further, she noted that such a platform would increase transparency since the public has access to information on to whom and at what price a procurement contract was awarded, eliminates misinformation from third parties and eliminates any changes to a procurement process once underway.
“There’s a demand for this type of system in Sri Lanka. If you look at the platform tenders.lk, you see that a private sector company has been given an opportunity in this obscurity of information,” she said.
Further, she noted that an interested supplier does not have to hunt down a specific newspaper of a specific date to find a procurement notice, and that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) too will be provided with an equal opportunity to provide tenders that fall within their capacities.
“When Bangladesh introduced e-procurement, there was a 500 percent increase in registered companies, and in South Korea it was a 401 percent increase. Contracts awarded to SMEs in Mexico went up by 36 percent,” Esufally added.
She said that 98 countries have implemented an e-procurement platform by 2016, up from 63 countries in 2014, and that 113 countries publish results of tender processes in 2016, up from 54 in 2014.
“It’s shown to reduce the tender life cycle drastically. In india, before e-procurement, an average tender lifecycle was 90-135 days. After the introduction, it fell just to 35 days. So you’re talking about roads being contracted in a shorter period of time, you’re talking about more efficient service,” she said.
She noted that in South Korea, where there was a partial system in the past, full implementation reduced the lifecycle from 30 hours to just 2 hours.
While praising the possible implementation of such a platform, Public Finance Department Director General Priyanga Algama noted that some stakeholders such as SMEs may not have sophisticated technological knowledge, and that listing local government procurement notices would be cumbersome.
He said that an e-procurement system could be set up as an alternative to the current system without much policy changes, but that making it the only option for a tender process would require major legislative changes.