Will E-GOV’T Procurement Eliminate Corruption?

by Christopher Kiiza
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The Electronic Government Procurement (eGP) system is a web-based platform that aims to streamline and improve the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of the public procurement process in Uganda. The system is managed by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) and is designed to facilitate all stages of the procurement process, from registration and bidding to contract award and management.

The key features of the eGP System include: online registration and bidding for suppliers to register and submit bids electronically, eliminating the need for paper-based submissions; tender documentation and evaluation to enable tender documents and evaluation criteria readily accessible online, enhancing transparency and fairness; contract management to facilitates contract creation, tracking, and performance monitoring; and electronic payments to enable suppliers receive electronic payments through the system, reducing delays and improving cash flow.

The system’s transparency and auditability mechanisms aim to among others, mitigate corruption risks and promote ethical procurement practices in government procurement forces.

This is because the traditional procurement system in Uganda has long been plagued by inefficiencies, opacity, and susceptibility to corrupt practices causing graft to thrive.

The Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary and Secretary to Treasury, Ramathan Ggoobi believes e – government procurement will solve corruption endemic.

“We are minimising avenues for corruption through reduced human interaction in procurement processes. This is what I have been singing since I came to government. This tendency of us just talking about corruption, the practical way of dealing with it is by putting in place systems like e – government procurement which can be able to help us track all the interactions and transactions we make. We need a system to help us streamline all the transactions we do so that we reduce corruption,” he said.

The electronic government procurement also helps to minimize the cost of doing business by eliminating manual paper – based procurement transactions, increase bidder participation and promote competition among suppliers leading to better value for money in the public procurement, enhance transparency and accountability in the public procurement.

Florence Nakyeyune, the eGP project manager, however, says the system will not eliminate corruption, but rather significantly reduce it.

“There’s been a discussion on corruption, and I just want to set the record straight. E – procurement will make corruption uncomfortable but it cannot eliminate corruption. Why? Because corruption is a personal attribute. It goes down to our personalities. What we have done on the system is to provide controls that make corruption difficult,” she said.

PPDA Executive Director, Benson Turamye said, “eGP is a very fundamental financial reform, and it is not only for PPDA or for Uganda. It is a global reform to enhance transparency, efficiency, and accountability.”

Uganda’s Corruption Index

The latest Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International this year ranks Uganda as the fourth most corrupt country in the East African region.

Globally, the report ranks Uganda number 142 out of 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption.

According to the report, Uganda maintained a score of 26 for the past two years, after it dropped from 28 in 2019. The score is measured on the scale of zero (highly corrupt) and 100 (very clean).

 In 2019, Uganda ranked 137 out of 180 countries, and in 2020, the corruption worsened, and the Uganda was ranked 142 with 27%.

In 2021, Uganda ranked number 144 out of the 180 countries.

In 2022, Uganda scored 27% which is far below Denmark and Finland that are the least corrupt at 88% each.

The 144th position that the country attained in 2021 is slightly better than 142th position the country currently holds.

Uganda has drafted various measures to fight the corruption endemic. The country has got an Independent Court, the Anti-Corruption Court to hear cases related to corruption, and institutions such as the Inspectorate of Government (IG), State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU), State House Investors Protection Unit among others.

Despite the creation of these anti-corruption bodies, the country has registered very little progress in eliminating the vice.

How E-Procurement Reduces Corruption

In traditional manual procurement processes, transactions are often shrouded in secrecy, providing fertile ground for corrupt practices to thrive. E-procurement, by contrast, introduces a digital trail that documents every step of the procurement process, from requisition to payment. This transparency acts as a powerful deterrent to corruption, as individuals engaging in corrupt activities are more likely to be exposed.

E-procurement minimizes human intervention in the procurement process, reducing the opportunities for corrupt practices. Automation of tasks such as bid evaluation and contract management reduces the reliance on subjective decision-making, mitigating the risk of bribery and favoritism. Algorithms and predefined rules streamline the procurement workflow, ensuring that decisions are based on merit rather than personal connections or illicit incentives.

Electronic procurement systems also facilitate real-time monitoring and auditing. Authorities can access a centralized database that provides instant insights into procurement activities, allowing for timely detection of irregularities. This proactive approach enables swift corrective action, preventing corruption before it takes root. Additionally, the ability to conduct audits with ease creates a culture of accountability, making it clear that fraudulent activities will be uncovered.

Furthermore, e-procurement introduces fair competition by widening the pool of potential suppliers. Online platforms enable businesses of all sizes to participate in the procurement process, fostering a competitive environment. This not only ensures that the best and most cost-effective solutions are chosen but also reduces the likelihood of collusive practices among a limited number of suppliers.

President Museveni has severally questioned the reason one should avoid availing online services for efficiency in combating corruption.

He has argued that increased automation leads to the complete elimination of human interaction, rendering corruption obsolete, envisioning a scenario where all processes, such as bid submissions and assessments, occur online, leaving no room for bribery.

“Our Lord’s prayer says ‘thou shall not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.’ All these people should stop meeting bidders. We are going to make it an offence to do it. What are you discussing? Put it on the machines everything that you discuss such that everything is traceable,” Museveni remarked in one of his speeches on the fight against graft.

Government believes that the adoption of e-procurement brings about a paradigm shift, introducing transparency, accountability, and efficiency into the procurement landscape.

Over the past two years, significant progress has been achieved in implementing electronic government procurement.

Currently, 36 entities have enrolled in the system. Government plans to roll out the system to all the 420 entities within the next two years.

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