SLF launches national level training programs on procurement and audit management

Thursday, 30 January 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) has established a separate desk in the Social and Institutional Development Unit to carry out national level training programs and consultancy on procurement and audit management. The Desk will offer management consultancy services to prepare customised bidding documents, preparation of procurement and financial manuals etc., and  a series of procurement and audit management training programs for public officers  of different levels including TEC and Procurement Committee Members, suppliers, and contractors as short–term workshops, seminars, certificate level programs and an Advanced Diploma In Procurement Management (ADIP) with a view to impart required knowledge, improve skills and inculcate positive attitudes to change the shape and direction of present public procurement management system towards a higher level. The SLF  the centre for leadership, education and training in Sri Lanka incorporated under the Sri Lanka Foundation Law No.31 of 1973 is under the direct purview of the Presidential Secretariat and is managed by a board chaired by Prof. Ranjith Bandara. The SLF has taken a proactive step to enhance and widen the ongoing public procurement and audit management training activities from the year 2014 onwards. For this initiative, experts in the field such as procurement management expert Irvan Tissera, former Deputy Secretary to the Treasury & former Chairman National Procurement Agency Daya Liyanage, former Auditor General, S.C. Mayadunne, former Deputy Auditor General M.D.M. Harold, former Deputy Advisor to Public Accounts Committee M.S.M. Suhair and other experts in the field will contribute as key personnel. At the very outset we should realise that Sri Lanka is a middle income country experiencing a remarkable economic growth and development during the last decade despite much internal and external pressures. This remarkable development was realised with massive investments in government infrastructure projects in line with the “Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the Future”. These investments were made through domestic as well as multilateral and bilateral funding sources. Moreover, there is an upward trend in receiving investments under public–private partnerships. Irrespective of the source of funding, all such development activities should follow prescribed procurement procedures. Since 2004, our Country Procurement System is harmonised with international best practices; there is no significant difference between the country procurement systems and the funding agency systems. Procurement management is an integral part of public financial management system; so that efficiency and effectiveness of a country’s financial management system is essentially dependent on the efficiency and effectiveness of the procurement system. On the other hand, since the level of good governance of a country heavily depends on the quality of its procurement system; country procurement system is instrumental to achieve better governance because the principles of public procurement are the same as the principles of good governance. As such, the public procurement practice of the country is paramount for good governance. High economic growth and development generally indicate, the efficacy of  the country’s procurement system,  the empirical evident suggests that more results would have been emerged if  better capacity building in procurement had taken place, various deficiencies, persistent delays, misappropriations, malpractices, frauds and corruptions that had been highlighted in various source could  have been minimised. As we are aware, annual procurement expenditure of the country is about Rs. 600 billion which is around 50% of the national budget. Hence, public procurement should be considered as the most critical subject in the public management domain. Since, a country’s procurement system is based on certain principles, such as Value for Money (VFM), transparency, accountability, fairness, competitiveness, and integrity etc, the success of the system depends on how such principles are being adhered to. Nevertheless, VFM is the most important principle among them. VFM concerns whether procurement expenditure is made in accordance with Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness (3 E’s).This is different from the traditional way of thinking of success or failures that focus financial progress and compliance to rules and regulations. Since the lowest price does not necessarily mean the cheapest price, in order to ensure economy of expenditure, right goods should be selected with right quality. On the other hand efficiency is related to lowest cost and effectiveness which means wise spending, to achieve VFM, public organisations need to concentrate on many factors. Therefore, public organisations should allocate resources strategically in line with their action plans by concentrating on the priorities of the country. This is possible only if proper procurement planning is prepared by entities. Bid opening and bid evaluation are two areas that show sub optimality. If public officers do not comply with accepted rules and practices, various deficiencies and delays will be evident and hence lose the confidence of suppliers, contractors and the general public. Conversely, the lack of knowledge and skills in preparing and vetting bidding documents may cause implementing issues and delays may emerge. Lack of skills in contract implementation, resulting in the acceptance of improper or substandard goods and work, delays in payment and additional payments as interests, delays in loan disbursements and additional commitment charges to funding agencies, various disputes amongst the employer and contractors and thereby reluctance to bid for government contracts or add risk premium to contract price may result. Therefore, procurement capacity building should be provided for various categories of officers relating to the activities of the procurement planning and preparedness stage, pre-contract stage and the post–contract stage. It is surprising to see that any professional and academic educational organisation has recognised the real training need of procurement management in particular as a vital factor in their training syllabi. Despite limited training, opportunities are being offered by some training institutions. It has been revealed that a dearth of capacity development in procurement management is an area to give more emphasis to ensure true economic development and good governance of the country. Moreover, this training should not only be provided to officers involved but also to suppliers, contractors as well. In addition to general awareness in the different facets of the procurement process, the country should develop procurement experts and procurement specialists particularly to cater to development projects, but the supply of procurement awareness, skills and expertise is very much lower than that of the demand. In a nutshell, due to insufficient knowledge, skills and attitudes on procurement policy and regulations, procurement planning, preparation of bidding documents, preparation of consultancy documents, bid evaluation and contract administration etc, delays, rigidity in decision making, deficiencies, malpractices, frauds and corruptions are clearly evident in the system which is   counterproductive to development efforts and the level of good governance of the country.