E-GP, one of the components of Public Procurement Reform Project II (2008-2016) jointly implemented by the GoB and the World Bank, began its journey on June 2, 2011 with a view to ensure transparency and efficiency in public procurement
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has said the introduction of e-government procurement (e-GP) in the country had failed to make any impact on reducing corruption and improving the quality of work.
“[Even] political influence, collusion, syndication are still playing a central role in obtaining work orders, although the procurement process has been simplified,” the international anti-graft watchdog said while unveiling the findings of their research.
The TIB research, titled “Governance in Public Procurement: Effectiveness of e-GP in Bangladesh,” was unveiled through an online press conference on Wednesday.
“The introduction of e-GP has led to a shift from manual to technical government procurement, nonetheless, some stakeholders have found new avenues of corruption,” the research found.
The e-GP, one of the components of Public Procurement Reform Project II (2008-2016) jointly implemented by the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, began its journey on June 2, 2011, with a view to ensure transparency and efficiency in public procurement.
Shahzada M Akram, senior program manager for research and policy at TIB, presented the research paper at the online press conference.
The government’s Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) manages the e-GP of all state agencies. As of April 2019, 47 Ministries, 27 Divisions, and 1,362 public agencies were registered to e-GP.
However, four agencies– Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Roads and Highways Division (RHD), Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), and Rural Electrification Board (REB) — initially implemented e-GP.
The research focused on five major dimensions— institutional capacity, e-GP process, e-contract management, transparency & accountability and effectiveness— and came under different grades in case of achieving these dimensions for the four government agencies.
All the four agencies scored “unsatisfactory” in the research, where there are two other grades--“worrisome” and “satisfactory.”
Irregularities and corruption
“Incidents such as snatching tender boxes, preventing tender submission, blocking office premises do not occur now,” the research paper reads, and the public procurement process has been simplified.
The research, however, found no relations between reduction of corruption and e-GP process, rather nature of irregularities and corruption existing even after introducing e-GP.
About political influence, TIB said: “Work orders are under control of local political leaders, and distributed among contractors. In some areas, political leaders, especially local MPs, decide who will submit tenders for a particular project.
“In many cases, the local political leader distributes work among his juniors after securing the work with a credible license.”
As per TIB research, corruption at procurement offices has been going on.
It found the preparation of evaluation reports by computer operators, and allegations of patronage through increasing or decreasing scores.
“Officials are taking bribes for giving work orders through Limited Tender Method (LTM) or extorting bribes during supervising work, providing wrong information in progress reports,” the research reads.
“Besides, there exists irregularities in ‘Open Tender Method’ through syndication, like collusion between contractors, political leaders and officials of concerned offices in some areas, selling or subcontracting work illegally, getting work by using others’ certificates and licenses, contractors are forced to pay extra money to political leaders in their working areas and contractors from outside are not allowed to work.”
However, the TIB research has found some positive impacts of e-GP as well.
Less time is required for printing of schedules, purchase and submission of schedules, collection and verification of documents, the procuring process has been eased, problems related to submission of tenders reduced, corruption in tender evaluation has reduced,and opportunities for everyone to participate has increased.
“There is no evidence that the corruption would dry up if the World Bank gives a hand or provides technical support. It’s not a magical bullet,” said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
“They may have attempted, but how much it succeeds depends on how their technical support is implemented,” he said.
We have identified two types of weaknesses, systemic weakness and political influences, he added.
“Impact of syndication, dividation of tender... in our country politics is considered as a license of earning money. Purchasing sector is not above that, rather it is the main target,” he said.
TIB’s 12-point recommendation for implementing e-GP effectively
In the research, TIB recommended that every procuring entity has to be audited as per e-GP guidelines, all information and decisions related to tender be disclosed, information on income and assets of officials of procuring entities be submitted and activities of each procuring entity should be monitored.