Need to fix procurement system

There is a need to fix our procurement system. The government spends over 60 percent of the budget on the procurement of works, goods and services. This is a huge amount. If we do not correct the pitfalls, resource waste could be immense.

The meeting of engineers, architects and planners conference in Thimphu Monday brought this issue to the fore. What the current procurement process brings about is poorly delivered contracts, cost and time overruns, quality compromise rescindment of contracts and wastage of public resources. This must be corrected.

Director of MoWHS’s Directorate Services, Dhak Tshering, said that copy paste system is so rampant that even name of work is also not changed. This speaks loudly about the quality of our civil servants. We cannot let this pass easily. It is not for no reason that we recognise their service and dedication every year with medals and plaques. Civil servants being at the core of our governance, we expect more.

Rarely do such issues are brought to the light by the civil servants themselves. When they are, we must acknowledge our mistakes and bring ourselves to making amends. That courage is lacking. We need to achieve clarity when it comes to using our national resources.

The introduction of the e-tool system may have enhanced the objectivity and transparency of procurement process, but evaluators should be able to make collective judgment while awarding points against mandatory requirements. As yet, technical and financial competency of a bidder is judged by giving 10 points for work experience, 10 points against bid capacity, 10 points for average performance score, 20 points for credit available, 25 points for the availability of manpower and 25 percent for access to equipment.

Such a system favours inexperienced contractors who quote low and face contractual problems. Misuse of funds is rampant. We have seen that happen time and again.

Procurement system should not allow cost undercut because quality is what we aspire for. As MoWHS minister said, there will never be an end to infrastructure needs; old will be maintained and there will be increasing demand for new and better infrastructure. But compromising on the quality because of flaws in procurement system will be not just expensive but cost us heavily in terms of our nation’s long-term future.

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