An online-based procurement system, which the government rolled out six months ago, has proven to prevent malpractices which characterised public tenders such as falsification of documents and corruption, according to government officials and entrepreneurs.
Last year, about 180 entrepreneurs were blacklisted [by the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority] over malpractices, including falsification of bidding documents.
As of December 2017, information from the project management shows that over 2,000 public tenders had been put out, of which over 1,300 were opened through the system in a timely manner, instead of the tender committee which used to do it in the past. Of those opened bids, 839 contracts have been signed.
About 137 budget agencies - public institutions which use funds from national budget through finance ministry are using the system out of about 150 agencies in the country.
Richard Migambi, E-Procurement Project Manager at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning said that as of now, about 3,493 of estimated over 5,000 entrepreneurs, who participate in public bidding, are registered in the online bidding platform.
This, he said has resulted into efficiency, transparency and fair competition in public tenders.
Migambi told Saturday Times that about 60 per cent of the national budget [estimated to Rwf2.09 trillion for 2017/2018, compared to some Rwf1.95 trillion in 2016/2017.], is spent through public tendering.
Projects in such tenders include construction of public buildings, roads; and services.
Though the project was rolled out only about six months ago (in July 2017), making it difficult for the evaluation of its impact, Migambi said that it has started to yield results both for the government and bidders.
“Public tenders take up about 60 percent of the national budget. Imagine if that amount of money is misused. The service was not good among people using public funds. The government will gain through proper use of the budget,” he said.
Alexis Nsengumuremyi, the Managing Director of Enterprise Générale de Construction, said that the system helps the bidder to save time, because most of the documents required- are provided automatically online without necessitating the bidder to go to queue to get hard copies of such documents like in a bank.
Nsengumuremyi is also the Chairman of the Board of Association of Contractors in Rwanda.
The needed administrative documents are now provided electronically by institutions such as banks, Rwanda Revenue Authority, and Rwanda Social Security Board, to the bidder upon request.
Nsengumuremyi said the system prevents falsification or forgery of the documents by unscrupulous entities.
Previously, we could incur many expenses and needed to employ many workers, he added.
Bidding could also require submission of about five copies of the bidding book.
And, the book would contain about 300 sheets, which means that five books had 1,500 sheets.
“But now we do not spend money on printing and photocopying books because we no longer use [hard] sheets of paper,” Nsengumuremyi said, adding that the preparation of each bid could cost between Rwf1 million and Rwf1.5 million.
Migambi also pointed out that the government was spending more money on a lot of paper used in tender documents, and there was lack of assurance for transparency in public spending.
The e-system works with concerned banks, insurance, and government institutions for access to needed data about bidders such as guarantee, social security for their workers, and payment of due taxes.
Célestin Sibomana, the Director of Capacity building at Rwanda Public Procurement Authority (RPPA), said it eases the challenge of documents falsification or provision of wrong information that some entrepreneurs used to provide while bidding.
To ensure transparency in tendering and bidding process, the system is designed in such a way that it reduces physical contact between the bidder and the tendering agency, and has a security measure whereby only the right person (bidder) can access information on their document, while the tender committee can access it at the right time (bid opening day).
The system, whose cost is estimated at Rwf5 billion, was developed in 2015, and rolled out as a pilot project in eight public institutions, including ministries and districts in 2016/2017.
In regards to entrepreneurs who abandoned projects and sometimes continued to work in hiding without being detected; it will be no more.
Now officials with knowledge in the procurement technology operations say it will help significantly address the issue through registering the number of their identity card, which will enable the blacklisting of the entrepreneur in question as their number will be saved in the ICT-based database.