In the past, bidding documents for public procurement tenders in Zambia had to be submitted in person, making participation by interested foreign companies difficult. But the Zambia Public Procurement Authority is opening up the public procurement process, having begun the pilot of the e-government procurement (e-GP) system to promote cost effectiveness, accessibility, fairness and value for money. The director general attests to the improved credibility, efficiency and security of the new system, sending the message that UK and other international companies are welcome in Zambia to participate and contribute the national development agenda of the nation
How would you describe the Zambia Public Procurement Authority?
The Zambia Public Procurement Authority is a regulatory institution that was created by an Act of Parliament to oversee public procurement in Zambia. Zambia used to have a central body that carried out public procurement for all government institutions, but there were a lot of delays and inefficiencies with the old system. There was a need to decentralise public procurement in order to make the process more efficient. The ZPPA was created to regulate this and act as a capacity-building institution for procuring entities, while ensuring that those entities are undertaking procurement in line with the provisions of the law.
How can the ZPPA help a foreign investor get involved in Zambia?
The ZPPA is working on innovative solutions to ensure the public procurement process is speedy and efficient and that foreign investors can participate, thereby enhancing competition and achieving value for money. We observed, in the past, that a number of foreign companies were not participating in public procurement in Zambia because they had to physically deliver the bidding documents to us, which is costly because someone would have to pay to fly here and also pay for accommodation. We saw that the requirement to physically deliver bidding documents was adding to the cost of doing business here, so last year we started piloting an e-government procurement system under the broad reforms we are undertaking in public procurement. The e-government procurement system will allow foreign companies who are interested in participating in the provision of various works, goods and services in Zambia to do so more efficiently. With the new e-government procurement system, any company, wherever it is based in the world, will be able to participate in tendering from the comfort of their offices. All tendering, from submitting bidding documents to paying the associated fees, will work electronically so investors will not need to travel to Zambia. We believe this will allow foreign investors to participate at a reduced cost, do business and make money. At the same time, the government will also be able to achieve value for money, because if there is competition between a number of players, the government will get a fairer price. We believe that this is the best way to move forward.
What are some other highlights of this new e-government platform?
In the past we have had challenges with the manual procurement system and the situation has not improved much even now. For example, credibility of the procurement system was and is still an issue. A number of companies that did not win tenders complained and did not trust the system because there was too much interaction between the procuring entities, the institutions tendering, and the would-be suppliers of goods, works and services. There were complaints about corruption and a number of appeals against decisions made by procuring entities were lodged. We believe that the introduction of e-government procurement system will bring credibility to the system, because the winner of any particular tender will have been determined electronically. In institutions where piloting of the electronic system is being undertaken, there have been no appeals on any of the tenders to date. This tells a story that bidders trust the system. Foreign investors can be assured of fairness. Ultimately, foreign companies wishing to participate will see that the new system does not favour any particular companies. All companies will be treated in the same manner.
How is the ZPPA preparing to protect against cybersecurity issues?
We are working with Smart Zambia, a government institution which is spearheading and monitoring anything to do with e-governance in Zambia. This, along with the fact that our pilot system has strong security features, ensures that bids submitted by companies are secure. We are also not alone in Zambia. A number of e-systems have already been implemented in the country. The Zambia Revenue Authority is using e-tax, and NAPSA, the pension authority, is using e-NAPSA. The institution is also investing in security system to protect the e-GP system and members of staff are being regularly trained in security courses to better manage the e-government procurement system.
How do you think Zambia is perceived on the world stage?
I think Zambia is, and is perceived as, an oasis of peace and security, but in the past we have not sold enough ourselves to the world. However, a lot of positive things have happened in this nation in the past two years. From the macroeconomic point of view, we have been stable. In terms of growth, Zambia is also on an upward trajectory. And because of these positive indicators, now we need to send a positive message to the world that investors are welcome to Zambia, their investments are secure, and they will have a good return on their money.
What message would you like to send to British companies considering working in Zambia?
Traditionally, the UK has been a partner for Zambia. We believe that the traditional partnership needs to move to the next level. Especially with the UK leaving the European Union, businesses may want to explore new markets and new opportunities. Zambia presents itself as a new market for UK companies. Our economy is doing well and our macroeconomic indicators are very positive. There are opportunities for British companies to seize on, where they can expand their businesses and make money. British businesses are very much welcome in Zambia.
More information about public procurement may be found at: www.zppa.org.zm.
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