Technology driving transparent and accountable public procurement reform in Bangladesh
Zafrul Islam, Lead Procurement Specialist, World Bank
Ishtiak Siddique, Sr. Procurement Specialist, World Bank
Bangladesh's paper-based procurement process was holding back the fast implementation of development programs and projects. It not only cost the government time and money but was also vulnerable to more corruption and violent extortion. Since paper-based government tenders were easy to manipulate, corrupt individuals could intimidate the procurement process at the expense of citizens lives who would benefit from the government projects.
In 2012, with assistance from the World Bank, the government sought to tackle these problems with the introduction of an integrated electronic government procurement (e-GP) system as part of its overarching development agenda. This new platform was designed with transparency and accountability in mind and made every step related to public tenders fully online, from the registration of tenders all the way to the contract awards. Also, it initiated contract management online, including payments.
This upgrade has facilitated a remarkable shift in the public procurement process in Bangladesh. Procurement has become more efficient, transparent and accountable, while also increasing overall competition that has improved value for money.
The e-GP system reduces workload and unnecessary bureaucratic roadblocks for the procuring entities. Tenderers benefit from the reduction of time, travel, cost, and effort required to tender, with reduced errors due to automation. This upgrade has facilitated a remarkable shift in the public procurement process in Bangladesh. Procurement has become more efficient, transparent and accountable, while also increasing competition that has improved value for money.
The e-GP system reduces workload and unnecessary bureaucratic roadblocks for the procuring entitities. Tenderers benefit from the reduction of time, travel, cost, and effort required to tender, with reduced errors due to automation.
The e-GP system facilitates automatic data collection and the tender data is used to measure effectiveness of the public procurement system across 45 indicators. Currently, the system is being further enhanced to include physical infrastructure tracking with geotagging, grievance tracking and electronic catalogues.
The transition to the new e-GP system required adequate technical support and training for various stakeholders that allowed them to embrace the technology without fear. The government created a technical support unit, developed a set of focal persons within each procuring organization, provided 24x7 help desk support, offered e-GP training for agencies and tenderers, and conducted extensive communication campaigns and e-GP workshops at national and decentralized levels.
These efforts were a success. Both procuring agencies and tenderers have exceeded all expectations. Currently, 55% of the national budget spent on procurement is processed through the e-GP. By 2020, all agencies are expected to have converted to this system.
Revenue earned from the registration of tenderers and sold tender documents now cover full operational costs, making the e-GP system sustainable. It continues to improve governance and provide better public service delivery, with significantly less collusion, coercion, tender rigging, and violence. As an added bonus for sustainability, the amount of paper saved greatly reduces environmental degradation.
Technology is opening exciting new opportunities for new solutions to old problems. It is making information accessible and transparent. As the Bangladesh case shows, new ideas have the power to change lives through more efficient and competitive procurement of government goods and services.