Procurement is the acquisition of goods, services or works from an external source. Public procurement means procurement using public funds and performance of service by any contractual means. Public sector organisations acquire goods, services and works from third parties. The process of public procurement in Bangladesh has evolved, modified and developed over time. The latest development of this process was introduction of Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) system. This electronic procurement makes public contracting more accessible, more secure and more efficient.
e-GP is nothing but a real time internet based system for procurement of goods, works, services using public fund. It was first time started in 2011 for procurement of four agencies namely Roads and Highway Department (RHD), Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), Rural Electrification Board (REB) and Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). To convert the procurement system electronically, a project was run since August 2002 with financial assistance of the World Bank. After that, Public Procurement Regulation (PPR) was made on October 2003 and Procurement Act and Rules was effective on January 2008.Public procurement system in Bangladesh is regulated by two legal instruments - the Public Procurement Act (PPA) and the Public Procurement Rules (PPR) 2008. e-GP process involves identifying potential suppliers through opening tender or purchasing directly. There are various methods of procurement like Open Tendering Method (OTM), Limited Tendering Method (LTM), Two Stage Tendering Method and Direct Procurement Method. All the methods have been transformed into electronically in 2011 under a common portal. OTM and LTM are most popular to the tenderers.
The Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) is the developing, maintaining and controlling authority of e-GP which was established in 2002. It is a unit of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of Ministry of Planning of the Government. CPTU is also reformed for the development and monitoring of e-GP procedure under Public Procurement Reform Project. e-GP system is an network based system encompassing the total procurement life cycle keeping records of all procurement activities. Activities of CPTU are increasing day by day. e-GP coverage is also increasing by the passing of time. Different organisations and the banks have been integrated with the e-GP system.
e-GP is the simultaneous use of information and communication technology i.e. internet by the government agencies as well as other actor of procurement in running all activities of government procurement process to acquire goods and services with improved efficiency. The purpose of e-GP is to improve the efficiency and transparency in all types of public procurement by materializing a comprehensive e-GP solution to be followed by all public bodies in the country.
Public procurement covers one-fifth of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The size of national budget in Bangladesh has been growing from bigger to bigger every year. Among the budget, 51 per cent is Annual Development Programme (ADP) and almost 80 per cent of ADP is spent on procurement. There are 1,324 procuring organisations/entities in the country. Among the total, 1,254 are registered which cover all ministries and their divisions. The remaining ones are Pourashavas, Upazilas and other organisations.
Public procurement system in Bangladesh is divided into four parts - goods, works, intellectual and professional services and non-intellectual services (outsourcing). There are about 50,000 bidders registered in e-GP system. More than 270,000 tenderers have been invited already through e-GP. With the introduction of tender invitation through e-GP, a lot of problems of the tenderers have been resolved. The principal objectives of this system is to maintain full and updated public procurement activities of all government agencies and providing tender opportunities to all tenderers from home and abroad.
The e-GP system is a single web platform where and through which Procuring Entities (PEs) are able to perform their procurement related activities using a dedicated secured web-based dashboard. The e-GP system is hosted in e-GP data centre at CPTU. The e-GP portal is accessible by PEs, bidders and other concerned through internet. This type of electronic procurement system has been operational in some states of India, South Korea, China and some other countries in the Asia.The e-GP system is one of the important tools of government vision for building a digital Bangladesh by 2021 and turn into a middle income country. By the time, it is globally recognised that the right use of technology can reduce time and costs in every sector. The government wants to provide services to both the urban and rural people by the means of ICT to fulfil the aim of building digital Bangladesh and improving the quality life of the people. The changes in every sector in the light of technological improvement are visible to the people of the country and all over the world.
The traditional paper based tendering system is already replaced by e-GP. It is time and cost effective for both the tenderers and the procurement entity. The tenderers can submit and check the status of the tender by sitting in his own office premises at any moment. There are some infrastructural problems that interrupt the e-GP services, like internet connectivity, low speed of internet, power problem, accessibility in the software etc. If the problems resolved, the e-GP system can work effectively and efficiently to all the users.
E-procurement in the public sector is an important stage in e-governance development having considerable economic stage. Corruption, terrorism and mismanagement in the procurement can be eradicated from the root through optimum use of e-GP system. The government should take initiative to include all procurement agencies under e-GP system and side by side all tenders should be called through e-GP so that any unfair means cannot take place in public procurement. It would be an effective tool for fulfilling the vision of building digital Bangladesh by 2021.
The writer is a Banker & Researcher