As I have blogged earlier, the World Bank is supporting Procurement Observatories in India. Procurement Observatories are civil society organizations, whose goal is to collect, analyze and present public procurement policies and data to the public in a more understandable way. These initiatives, inspired by similar approaches in Nigeria, allow for greater transparency of procurement practices.
While the aim of these observatories is to become self-sustaining and independent from World Bank support, recent progress from three such observatories in India show that .
On April 12, 2017, the Indian state of Assam became the fourth state and the first in the North-Eastern region of India to adopt a public procurement act. This new act provides the public procurement processes a much needed makeover while delivering greater visibility of enforceable legal provisions in procurement to the public.
The Assam Procurement Observatory has partnered with the Government of Assam to help aid in the planning and implementation of this ambitious new policy measure. Historically, procurement in Assam was governed by the dated Financial Rules which had not evolved to adopt best practices and made limited progress towards greater accountability, transparency and efficiency.
In the Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) state, the U.P. Procurement Observatory has made noteworthy strides in procurement performance benchmarking and capacity building especially in providing opportunities for government staff to build their capabilities and understanding. In partnership with the World Bank, the Observatory has been offering training in the World Bank’s New Procurement Framework (NPF) to not only Indian government officials but to those in other developing countries as well.
The first international training program (PDF) was held in Uttar Pradesh on November of 2016 and had participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Georgia and Rwanda. The Observatory plans to repeat such trainings in the future.
The Observatory in U.P. has also recently signed a partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), one of the largest industry associations in India, for conducting research and publications in the field of accountability and transparency in governance in India. Another strategic partnership is with the Competition Commission of India to assess the competitiveness and effectiveness of various bills and legislation in India.
U.P. Procurement Observatory’s research on procurement benchmarking was also recently recognized by the Emerald Publishing, which manages a portfolio of 300 peer-reviewed journals, and the Indian Academy of Management (IAM) India Research Fund Award, as a “highly commended proposal.”
In the largest state of India (in terms of area), the work done by the Rajasthan Procurement Observatory has been commended by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which has extended a grant to promote civic engagement in public procurement processes in Rajasthan.
One of the innovative activities of this observatory was to conduct a Consumer Awareness Survey about the average citizen's perception of public procurement in the State. Initial findings of the survey demonstrate how important initiatives such as that of the Procurement Observatories are needed in improving governance.
Some 83 percent of respondents felt that the public procurement sector was full of corruption and while only 1 percent of respondents thought there was no corruption in public procurement.
Watch the video below about Procurement Observatories in India.