Verité makes recommendations for e-government procurement in Sri Lanka

May 19, 2017 (LBO) – Verité Research, a private think tank, has made several recommendations regarding e-government procurement (E-GP) implementation in Sri Lanka.

Strengthening public procurement in Sri Lanka requires enhancing its efficiency, cost-effectiveness and competitiveness, Verité said.

E-government procurement systems can be designed to handle any or all aspects of the procurement process, including publication of tenders, transfer of bid documents, bid submission of, bid evaluation, and contract awards. Advanced E-GP systems can undertake online evaluation of bids and e-payments.

Recommendations

1. Amend the Procurement Guidelines and the Procurement Manual to enable and facilitate E-GP, including to: i. Remove prohibitions of electronic bid submission; ii. Mandate electronic publication of annual procurement plans, selection criteria, the composition of Procurement Committees and Technical Evaluation Committees, any revisions to tender notices, and contracts awarded; and iii. Mandate the transition to E-GP within a stipulated period.

2. Issue a circular stating that e-signatures certified by an appropriate Certification Service Provider can be accepted as valid and enforceable for the purposes of concluding public procurement transactions.

3. Develop and implement a comprehensive policy framework that clearly defines the terms of use of the E-GP system.

4. Designate the National Procurement Commission (NPC) as the primary agency responsible for: i. Conducting an audit of the existing manual procurement processes and proposing how they can be streamlined and automated on the E-GP platform; ii. Formulating necessary amendments to the Procurement Guidelines and Procurement Manual; and iii. Drafting the E-GP policy.

5. Strengthen the institutional capacity of the NPC to oversee the management of the platform.

6. Establish an adequately-resourced Project Management Unit under the NPC, which would be tasked with the development of the E-GP platform and an E-GP implementation plan.

7. Given the limited resources available to the NPC, consider a third-party service provision model for E-GP implementation that utilises a third-party with the necessary skills and expertise to run the country’s E-GP system subject to adequate government management, oversight and proprietary rights.

8. Provide robust training and communication programs for suppliers and procuring entities to support E-GP uptake.

9. Adopt a phased approach to E-GP roll-out, starting with hosting a pilot group of key procuring entities on a single online portal. The table below sets out proposed E-GP functions to be rolled out in the short, medium, and long terms. Short-term activities can run concurrently with manual procurement processes; however, medium and long-term activities necessitate the migration of existing procurement processes to the E-GP platform.

E-GP

Public procurement in Sri Lanka currently suffers from three main weaknesses, the report said.

The first, information related to procurement, such as tender opportunities and contract awards, is difficult to access.

Second, bidding imposes high transaction costs on businesses and government agencies, including costs associated with preparing and submitting bids. Manual administration of procurement tends to be time-consuming and labour intensive; for instance it relies on physical transfer and storage of bid documents.

And, third, Sri Lanka’s procurement marketplace has featured anti-competitive.