Feature Stories



Close and Personalized Procurement Monitoring, Leading to Procurement Efficiency in Irrigation Sector in Fragile and Challenging Environments of Afghanistan


{This article is an abridged version of the submission on “Expediting Procurement, Reducing Procurement Time, and Achieving Cost Savings through Innovative Procurement and Contract Management Solutions for Challenging and Fragile Environments” made by Mr. Pervaiz Ahmad Naseri, Project Manager, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, Government of Afghanistan, for the South Asia Procurement Innovation Awards.}


The On-Farm Water Management (OFWM) Project mainly aims at improving the efficiency of water use to increase agricultural production, building capacity of local staff in implementing similar projects in the country, and educating farmers about the need to improve their agricultural practices and adopt high-efficiency irrigation.

A Kabul-based Project Implementation Unit, headed by the Project Director / Manager, with assistance from a Core Team of Specialists and Support Staff, is responsible for execution of the project. By following a desk-oriented approach of designating one staff responsible for end-to-end management of procurement, using IT for followup, and through regular interactive sessions with contractors, the project team gained considerable efficiencies in process management.


The OFWM Project, funded by Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, was approved in January 2011. Five regional area teams – one each in Kabul, Nangarhar (Jalalabad), Mazar-i- Sharif (Balkh), Baghlan, and Herat, have been established for implementation of various field activities under the OFWM Project. The Project Implementation Unit found that the following were needed for successful implementation of the OFWM Project:

  • Expedite the designing of various irrigation schemes, which have already been surveyed, but preparation / finalization / review / approval of designs is pending at various stages in the five area offices / regions of the project as also at the head office in Kabul.
  • Prepare the bidding documents immediately after completion of designs. Advertize all irrigation schemes as soon as drawings and BoQs are made available to the Procurement Unit.
  • Expedite selection and survey of new irrigation schemes, so that momentum is maintained to achieve the periodical targets stipulated by World Bank.
  • Arrange meetings of Bid Evaluation Committees and prepare / finalize draft Bid Evaluation Reports (BERs) immediately after the meeting.
  • Deploy an efficient monitoring system for supervising all procurement activities to expedite technical scrutiny of bids, seek clarifications from bidders, and verify credentials of the recommended bidders. {It is worth mentioning that due to wide-spread submission of fake qualification documents by many bidders in Afghanistan, World Bank has made it mandatory (for all cases) to verify the documents for similar works and liquid assets from the concerned employer and bank respectively.}
Challenges Addressed

The OFWM Project was delayed by about 15 months, resulting in extremely poor utilization of the funds granted. The country’s environment was then fragile and quite challenging, with several problems being faced:

  • Though the post-conflict environment in Afghanistan was gradually improving after the prolonged civil wars, infrastructure facilities were very much limited, particularly skills related to the use of high technology.
  • Due to frequent terrorist and suicide bombers’ attacks, the overall working environment was very much insecure.
  • This was the first On-Farm Water Management Project in Afghanistan. As such, there was limited technical experience of survey and design, procurement of irrigation works, and implementation of such works by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock.
  • The Procurement capacity within Afghanistan in general and OFWM Project in particular for proper / timely bidding and evaluation of bids for various goods, works, and consultancy contracts was very much limited.
  • Due to a number of development projects going on under different ministries, the turnover of staff was very high and their level of involvement / devotion / initiative was quite low.
  • An inappropriate decision for major use of high technology Pre-Cast Parabolic Structures (PCPS) for lining the various irrigation channels had already been taken. The procurement of these PCPS was imposing a major challenge because of inadequate technical capabilities and skills available within Afghanistan for manufacturing them. In addition, unreasonably high prices were being sought by vendors for manufacturing and transporting PCPS.
Innovations in the Solution

Following were the innovations made in implementation of the OFWM Project:

  • Introduction of a “Desk-Oriented” system of working, making one procurement staff responsible for all procurement activities of a particular procurement package.
  • Designing / Developing and introducing standard formats for almost all non-standard procurement documents, such as Procurement Requests, Requests for Quotations, Minutes of Bid Openings, Bid Evaluation Reports, Proposal for Variations / Contract Amendments etc.
  • For preparing most of the documents listed above, using Mail/Merge option of MS Word.
  • Introducing Procurement Request Registers and other related documentation.
  • Improving interaction with vendors by having frequent Vendor’s Workshops and educating them about proper preparation of their bids, and providing proper response to various requests for clarifications and proper execution of contracts.
  • Introducing monitoring and follow-up procedures at various stages.
  • Proper training and capacity development of the procurement staff.

Impact Generated

Innovative solutions to the problems / issues faced led to the following impacts:

  • Due to proper and timely coordination with design units, and monitoring of receipts related to Procurement requests, the average time taken in completing survey and designs was reduced from the earlier 219 days to 59 days.
  • Total time taken in awarding NCB works’ contracts was reduced from about 165 days to 76 days {by completing bid evaluation only in average 5 to 13 days (averages of latest 2 periods of year 2016) against earlier average of about 40 to 53 days (averages of earlier 2 periods of the year 2012)}.
  • Due to quick evaluation of bids and award of contracts and also improved monitoring of payments, the confidence of bidders / contractors in the project increased day by day. They got encouraged to bid for various other work packages, resulting in healthy competition among bidders / contractors. Thus, in most of the later cases, award of contracts was at prices about 25% lower than the estimated costs. {The award cost of all works awarded in the year 2016 has been about 8.4 Million USD (against the estimated cost of about 11.2 Million USD), leading to saving of about 2.8 Million USD}.

Due to close monitoring of execution of works, most of the works got completed in time. It is worth mentioning that this has been a significant factor in timely award and completion of irrigation works, due to which the overall project rating was changed from “Unsatisfactory” to “Satisfactory”.

Scalability and Sustainability

Though they seem to be simple in a normal environment, these steps have already been replicated within the OFWM Project. The innovation has also positively impacted other processes and projects under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock.
Being related to only general initiatives, common sense, and use of MS Office products (with MS Access), and email facilities, which are available everywhere these days, replication of these innovations can be made within the other organizations of Afghanistan or even in a different country.

Lessons Learned

The OFWM Project experience shows that following are the prime factors for its success:

  • Regular interaction within the Technical and Administration teams, Finance Unit, and World Bank.
  • Commitment of the management in monitoring various procurement activities, motivating the procurement staff, and taking interest in solving various procurement and contract management problems and issues.
  • Timely updating of data in the database and proper use of various exception reports, and
  • Regular training of the staff.

It is also essential that various procurement delays and issues are properly analyzed within time and remedial actions taken in a timely manner. This will help avoid similar delays and issues in future.