Practice Manager, Solutions and Innovations in Procurement, Governance Global Practice, World Bank
The World Bank is unrolling an online procurement tracking system—Systematic Track of Exchanges in Procurement (STEP)— into Bank-financed projects across the regions. In line with the rationale of the World Bank’s new Procurement Framework that is being launched on July 1, 2016, STEP offers the opportunity to increase efficiency, accountability, and transparency in procurement processing, aiming at maximizing development results in projects.
The STEP implementation team, consisting of Bank representatives across the regions (“STEP Champions”), have been diligently at work engaging and training Bank staff and Borrowers on how to use the system. In 130+ sessions that have taken place across the regions, where nearly 1000 Bank staff and 800 Borrowers have been trained in a virtual testing environment with real Bank projects, participants have been quick to grasp the new system and showed their eagerness to keep practicing and bring it to reality in their countries. Already 25 agencies are using the new system.
Borrowers have applauded the efficiency and monitoring benefits of the system in their countries. In South Asia, the region in the bank to first roll out STEP (in Pakistan), Borrowers highlighted the benefits of STEP’s application programming interface that may facilitate communication with other systems in the Government, a critical move towards a global interconnected procurement system. They furthermore highlighted the system’s data collection capability allowing for comprehensive analysis of the Bank’s overall performance and thereby informing decision making both on the Government and Bank sides. Borrowers in the Africa region too commented on the value of STEP’s data collection capability, which an Ethiopian borrower mentioned was particularly valuable in an environment where procurement staff turnover is rampant.
Those in Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted the benefits of STEP over their existing procurement tracking system (SEPA) in planning procurements. To that end, STEP offers process management modules for monitoring of documentation. Borrowers in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) emphasized the ease and flexibility in the submission of new procurement plan activities and the value of dashboard features in identifying implementation delays on both the borrower and Bank sides. The ECA borrowers emphasized the efficiency gains offered by STEP’s document management functions, which centralize almost all correspondence between the Bank and borrower, as well as of the contract management functions, which allow for the identification of bottlenecks that result in slow implementation.
The Bank STEP team has ensured that the system is user-friendly and adaptable to a variety of contexts. For example, in the East Asia and Pacific Region, language barriers have been overcome through the use of training manuals prepared in local languages side by side with the English versions and through trainings conducted in both local and English languages. Furthermore, to overcome weak internet connectivity, such as in Myanmar, the Bank has created an IT station in its office, which borrowers enthusiastically visit to load documents and send requests. In Africa, to overcome language barriers, Borrowers expect that a link for French-translated UN item category list will be made available in the system.
The accessibility and benefits of STEP have attracted strong borrower support and motivation to implement the new system despite fragility and conflict. MENA borrowers fully embraced the system within the thirteen trainings that have been conducted. In the FCV context of the Palestinian Territories and Iraq, in particular, Borrowers demonstrated the excitement and motivation of clients to learn how to use and bring the new system to their countries. These trainees worked on the system with ease, exploring various types of procurement activities and methods for goods, works, and consultancy. The trainees left the session eager to keep practicing and make the system a reality in their countries.
The positive experiences of STEP, particularly the enthusiasm and willingness of the Borrowers, provides comfort to the Bank’s STEP Implementation Team, building its motivation and strength to address the challenges that remain ahead.