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Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: How e-GP pays off in pandemic

The system is a great step forward towards Digital Bangladesh

Update : 03 Feb 2021, 01:50 AM

The ICT-based electronic government procurement (e-GP) system has paid a good dividend in the pandemic, as it has continued normal functioning amid the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on life and business, but the e-GP system, introduced by the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU), has been able to maintain zero downtime.

Introduced in 2011, it has enabled procuring entities to process, invite, and award tenders online. The tenderers also need not go to PEs for submission.

There had been some disruptions in the project sites due to the pandemic, but the March-June period was utilized in processing tenders submitted through the e-GP from the homes of tenderers across the country.

Procuring entities are greatly relieved of all hassles regarding tender processing and contract awards through the digitalized e-GP system. This is a great achievement of the government in its efforts to build a Digital Bangladesh.

About 80% of the Annual Development Program and 45% of the total national budget are spent on public procurement.

The e-GP system is an exemplary case of the use of disruptive technology in the field of procurement that has contributed to an average annual savings of $1.1 billion in 2018-2019, with an overall investment of only $70 million.

During the lockdown, the e-GP system worked as the backbone of day-to-day development operations in the country. It allowed the 1,300+ public organizations of the country to process all procurement activities -- such as tender invitation, opening, evaluation, approval, and contract award -- online, which followed national competitive tendering methods.

The number of contracts awarded to winning tenderers posted a sharp rise by 4% to 11,413 in June 2020, compared to 10,940 in the same month a year ago, which procurement specialists termed a success of the system for the effective means of implementation by the authorities concerned. The value of the contract awards in the same month saw a 32 % rise, taking the total spending to $959 million from $725 million a year ago. 

Meanwhile, the total figures during March-June, 2020, shows a fall by 30% to 25,963 contract awards, with the value coming down by 20% to $2.395 million from that in the previous year.

Though tender invitation saw a 15% fall during March-June, 2020, due to lockdown, tender opening registered a 31% jump in the period compared to the same months last year. All e-tender related activities posted a robust surge in June 2020 for recouping the lapses in the previous two months. Tender invitation rose by 175% in June, 2020, from the data of the same month last year, while in value it was almost six times higher at $790 million.

Tender evaluation was 11% higher in both number (to 12,489 from 11,213) and value (to $1,177 million from $1,065 million) in June, 2020, from that in the same month last year.   

The CPTU of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, Ministry of Planning, launched a Citizen Portal on 26 Aug, 2020, that will allow citizens access to public procurement data. The interactive web portal aims to enhance transparency and accountability in the process of public procurement by providing relevant information in line with the Right to Information Act.

The e-CMS is being piloted on three contracts of the Local Government Engineering Department, two of the Roads and Highways Department, and one of the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board. The CPTU has developed a tenderer database and taken up preparation for introducing international tender invitation through the e-GP.

Policy-makers, officials of procuring entities, experts, researchers, and others will be able to download procurement data following the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) to conduct analysis and research work to understand procurement performance.

The Citizen Portal on public procurement is linked to the CPTU website. It will be updated with information mainly from the e-GP system. Apart from that, the CPTU publishes information from different sources such as government agencies, citizen engagement platforms on public procurement, etc.

Shafiul Alam is a senior journalist and communication specialist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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