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The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has started a new phase of its public procurement reform programme which is helping Eastern Caribbean countries to increase efficiency and effectiveness in government procurement.
The second stage of the programme, which will include finalising legal reforms and establishing electronic systems, kicked off with a 47-participant workshop, held recently in the Virgin Islands. “Better expenditure management provides a foundation for building stronger and more inclusive economies. This can be achieved through robust public procurement that provides transparency and accountability by promoting civil society participation, stimulating private sector growth and investment, and encouraging wider improvements in governance,” said CDB Head of Procurement, Douglas Fraser.
Before the procurement reform started in 2018, CDB-financed assessments showed that few countries had dedicated procurement legal or regulatory frameworks. In addition, existing systems relied on outdated financial and administration Acts. Often appropriate institutional structures were not in place to undertake and oversee procurement and almost none of the public servants were dedicated to procurement whilst those involved in procurement lacked suitable qualifications.
Typically, public procurement can account for more than 10-15% of a country’s gross domestic product, but the amount can be considerably higher for small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean where US$8-11 billion is spent every year on public procurement. Consequently, there is significant need for CDB to support its Borrowing Member Countries’ development objectives in this area. In the past four years, with support from the Bank, legal and regulatory reform took place in Antigua and Barbuda and the Virgin Islands, and is at an advanced stage in Anguilla, Dominica, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Across the Member Countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), chief procurement officers and other senior procurement officials were appointed, often in newly created posts. Some 20 senior officials from across Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent received Diplomas in Procurement and Supply, accredited by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), through the Caribbean Procurement Training Programme, after long-term study.
CDB also actively advocated for all of the OECS countries to join and participate in the Inter-American Government Procurement Network to share technical knowledge and best practice, with the result that for first time all the OECS procurement leads had a venue to meet and build technical relationships. The second phase of the procurement reform, estimated to last until mid-2024, will involve the completion of the outstanding legal and regulatory reforms, the formation of dedicated procurement institutions in the countries, the development of standard procurement documents and support for the introduction of electronic procurement to provide for greater transparency and efficiency.