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eProcurement: At the Beginning of Every Major Change, There's a Little Website

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As you can see from many of our blog posts, we're somewhat struggling with getting a good grip on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and their role for governance and accountability. We're also somewhat split along the lines of enthusiasm and scepticism with regard to the possibilities of using ICTs to straighten out a distorted public sphere and further development. This morning I learned about eProcurement, a very particular application of ICT in the context of government accountability, that seems to me a good argument in favor of us technology enthusiasts.

Samia Melhem from the World Bank's Global ICT Department presented on "eProcurement as a tool of Government Transformation," talking about how a simple website set up by a Ministry of Finance can set off a process that curbs corruption, empowers citizens, helps governments saving a lot of money, and eventually changes an entire national culture. It so happens that client governments approach donors to help them set up eGovernment tools, in particular in procurement. Their motives are primarily economic: procurement without ICT is a license to lose money and puts the government at a disadvantage on the market. The private sector is pushing for the use of ICT. Accountability, however, is more than a side effect here, it is also a motive - according to Melhem governments recognise the need to be accountable at least to the companies they work with.

Some of the successes of eProcurement are stunning. In Karmataka, 20 million land records were computerized at a cost of $4.2 million - the annual savings add up to $ 18.3 million. In Sao Paulo, the investment in an eProcurement system recouped in  5.7 days. Korea's $80 million investment brought $ 2.7 billion in annual savings - and, Melhem says, eradicated corruption in procurement.

eProcurement may be about the most difficult tool of eGovernment in particular and ICTs in development in general. One participant of this morning's presentation rightly pointed out that the tool should first be used in somewhat less sensitive areas. If technologies of accountability are introduced step by step, as political situation and capacity allow, they may well become part of a cultural shift toward more accountability. We have often discussed the need for changing norms in order to reach effective development outcomes. Here's a neat example how ICTs can initiate this culture change.

Picture credit: Flickr user centralasian

Comments

Submitted by Satyam Jakkula on
There’s significant cultural change in Public Procurement with the induction of e-Government Procurement (e-GP). Embracing of e-GP would call for a technology tool, but most prominently has to be a foil for other dimensions like Process reforms, legal frameworks, reorganizing the institutions and capacity building. The e-Government Procurement (e-GP) Mission Mode Project (MMP) is led by the Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India, and the project is being designed to address the core issues relating to the effective implementation of e-GP in India through use of technology and other procurement reforms. There is strong governmental support for e-GP implementation in India as a Mission Mode Project with additional support from the World Bank. It is very heartening to see the major implementations in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi, etc have been proven extremely successful. Many organizations like Dept of Commerce, NISG, State Governments, World Bank, etc are working together to take this initiative to a higher scale as envisioned.

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