Government agencies, ministries, public universities and schools procure goods and services regularly to facilitate their operations. The goods and services are always got through a clear process, guided by the public procurement law.
For instance, for every purchase exceeding Rwf100,000, a public entity is expected to issue a tender notice, inviting contractors through an open bidding process, according to the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA) Act.
For any firm to bid for the tender, they must fulfill given requirements, including capacity to provide the service or commodity.
For works whose value is estimated to cost above Rwf1 million, the procuring entity advertises the tender in at least one newspaper of wide circulation and on Internet. The open competitive bidding process should not be 30 calendar days from the time the notice is published in a newspaper.
According to the law, tenders for works with estimated value exceeding Rwf1.2 billion are open to international contractors. This is also applicable for the procurement of goods and services with estimated value above Rwf600 million. However, depending on the nature of the tender, an international tender may be issued for services or goods of lower value regardless of the size.
The procurement process
The tendering process usually starts with the procuring entity issuing a bidding notice in the media, and ends with the award of signing of contracts. Below are some of the steps followed by public procuring entities:
This includes identifying the choice of procurement method, specifying requirements, choice of contract type and preparation of bidding documents.
The procurement entity is required by law to advertise in a newspaper the available opportunities for tenders. The advertisement invites bids and proposals from potential suppliers. Bidding documents are also issued.
It involves opening and evaluation of the bids by the tender committee.
Award of contract to the successful bidder follows. The successful firm or individual is debriefed about what is expected of them and the contract is explained further.
The law provides for arbitration in case of any grievances about the tender process from some bidders.
When there are no complaints, the contractor or supplier goes ahead and mobilises to start implementing the project or supplying the goods and services. The contractor’s performance is evaluated regularly, as agreed in terms of payment. Suppliers can procure goods and services from any country, except where specific sanctions are declared against a given country.
The dos and don’ts
RPPA says a bidder who is involved in any form of misconduct is immediately blacklisted and suspended from participating in public procurement.
According to RPPA manual, public agents and bidders shall not collude with other businesses and organisations with the intention of depriving a procuring entity of the benefits of free and open competition, or enter into business arrangements that might prevent the effective operation of fair competition.
They are also prohibited from engaging in deceptive financial practices, such as bribery, double billing or other improper financial practices; and misrepresenting facts in order to influence a procurement process or the execution of a contract to the detriment of the procuring entity.
According to Papias Kazawadi, the general secretary of the Association of Contractors, the biggest challenge facing contractors is the autonomous powers possessed by the public procuring entities to change guidelines of the bidding process.
“The current law leaves contractors and suppliers at the mercy of the procuring entity at liberty to change the bidding requirements to suit their interests.
“Such changes affect contractors because sometimes they are made when firms have already submitted bids. This is unfair and taints the whole procurement process,” Kazawadi, who is also the managing director of Star Construction and Consultancy Limited, says.
However, some procuring entities blame contractors, saying many do not read and understand the bid documents before applying for the jobs.
Advice from sector players
Daniel Kwizera, the country director of Electric Plus Engineering, advises sector players, especially firms, to always abide by the bidding procedures given by the entities, besides avoiding indulging in influence peddling to win tenders.
Kwizera also advises contractors to hire experts to help them with the bidding process if they want to stay in business. He points out that it is important to create and maintain a healthy relationship between contractors and the clients, noting that this boosts the sector. He also advises firms to invest in advertising their brands to attract more contracts.
Future of procurement sector
Augustus Seminega, the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA) director general, acknowledges that the sector still has challenges like lack of experience among procurement officers, which leads to the loss of public funds when contracts are awarded to incompetent firms.
He believes that with continuous training, procurement officers will gain enough expertise to deliver value-for-money, adding that so far Rwanda meets international standards in the field of public procurement.
The new policies that RPPA is introducing soon will include setting up an electronic procurement portal, which will automate the public procurement process, hence reducing errors and corruption, as well as enhancing efficiency and security, according to Seminega.