Feature Stories



Fifth South Asia Region Public Procurement Conference brings focus on Procurement in Public Service Delivery

Atin Rastogi, Sr Procurement Specialist, Governance Global Practice

The Fifth South Asia Region Public Procurement Conference held in New Delhi, India, from February 5-7, 2018 brought together more than 100 participants, including SAR Heads of Public Procurement, high government officials, public procurement, policy makers, practitioners, and representatives of World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 

The participants deliberated on various aspects of public procurement in ensuring efficient and timely public service delivery. Hosted by Public Procurement Division (PPD) of the Ministry of Finance, Govt of India and All India Management Association (AIMA), and sponsored and facilitated by the WB, ADB, and IsDB, the Conference is the fifth in line of these annual conferences.  The First Conference was held in Kathmandu (2010), second in Islamabad (2014), third in Dhaka (2015) and fourth in Sri Lanka (2017). An important part of the regional cooperation between public procurement offices in all SAR countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), these conferences, the knowledge exchange and networking activities are strongly supported by the WB and development partners. 

The conference was inaugurated by Mr. Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister and Minister of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. In his address, the Minister stressed upon the importance of procedural fairness in public procurement and award of contracts and said that this can be ensured through transparency that enable a State to act in the best interest for its citizens in terms of price, quality and service delivery and help avoid elements of nepotism and corruption in public procurement. Mr. Jaitley highlighted the special measures taken by the Government of India to bring in greater transparency, fairness and efficiency in public procurement through a series of measures including launch of the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) for online purchases of common use items. He congratulated the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other partners for organizing such an event.

Mr. Ajay Narayan Jha, Secretary, Expenditure, Govt of India welcomed the delegates and highlighted the recent efforts taken by Government in using ICT (E-Procurement and e-Marketplace) as a tool for bringing efficiency and transparency.  Mr. Junaid Ahmad, Country Director of the World Bank India mentioned that this is highly opportune moment for the event given the faster economic growth experienced by all countries in the region resulting in demand for efficient procurement operations to meet the high infrastructure development demands. Mr. Vinay Sharma,Director, Governance Global Practice, World Bank congratulated the South Asia procurement network for the pioneering efforts for bringing in innovations and detailed World Bank's pathbreaking procurement reforms that focus on country systems and service delivery.

In the thematic sessions, the Conference deliberated on key aspects of public procurement that help ensure delivery of public services; and identify and address areas that need improvement. Procurement of health and education services, enhancing oversight in public procurement through complaints mechanism, audits, role of ICT and PPP in public procurement, etc. were the topics discussed at the conference. All countries made presentation on the status of initiatives for reforming and modernizing procurement followed by discussions. 

During this Conference, the winners of the second edition South Asia Procurement Innovation Awards 2016-17 was also celebrated.

Awards recognize and reward the entities that deployed innovative approaches in their everyday public procurement functions to add value, generate substantial savings, and offer an out-of-box thinking, which can be replicated to create a similar advantage to other organizations, not only in the same country, but also across the region and even globally. Details are available at https://www.procurementinet.org/sapia/awards_2017.php

The Conference came up with many recommendations for countries to follow and also discussed options for ensuring sustainability of South Asia Public Procurement Network and how to improve its effectiveness.

Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Govt. of India, the chief guest for the closing session urged the heads of procurement to involve further for linking the recommendations with specific time-bound actions. He mentioned that implementation of these recommendations will require leadership and commitment at all levels from the governments of all participating countries of the Region. Leveraging the opportunity, the South-Asia Public Procurement Network provides, the SAR countries can use it as a springboard to effect successful public service transformations individually, at country level and collectively, at regional level.