Uganda bets on e-procurement to advance efficiency and transparency in the public sector
27.03.2023With the support of the AU-EU D4D Hub, Uganda’s public procurement authority travelled to Estonia to learn about the country’s digital transformation journey and launch a digital roadmap of their own
From 26 February to 4 March 2023, a delegation of public servants working for the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) of Uganda travelled to Tallinn, Estonia to learn about the European country’s best practices on e-governance, and on e-procurement in particular.
The visit was part of an ongoing collaboration between the PPDA and the African Union - European Union (AU-EU) Digital for Development (D4D) Hub aimed at improving public sector efficiency in Uganda through digital transformation. As part of this project, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is accompanying the PPDA in its efforts to advance the digitalisation of its public procurement processes.
In Uganda, public sector procurement is a significant component of public expenditure management, which plays a critical role in ensuring effective service delivery, good governance, and sustainable development. Public sector procurement accounts for up to 60 per cent of the Government of Uganda’s expenditures.
Increased uptake of digital public procurement could offer the Government of Uganda many opportunities to streamline processes, save resources, and increase transparency and accountability. For example, citizens could track the progress of their applications online, reinforcing confidence in public procurement systems. Procurement specialists could also access bidding information online, making the review process simpler and more efficient.
E-procurement could also make bidding on public projects more financially accessible for small and medium enterprises. Additionally, bidders could submit applications remotely, reducing the time and costs of travel to administrative buildings. In terms of privacy, online applications could ensure that bidders’ identity remains confidential and is only disclosed after the bid opens. And finally, a digital system could make it easier to blacklist poor-performing contractors, improving the quality of public works.
An exchange of experiences and lessons learned
In Estonia, e-procurement is an integral part of the country’s e-governance system. The country launched its first web-based procurement platform in 2001. In the beginning, services were limited to facilitating the electronic submission and publication of contract notices. In 2011, however, Estonia launched a new two-pronged e-procurement environment, which included the e-procurement register and an information portal for public procurement. Nowadays, public procurement is expected to be fully electronic with limited exceptions.
The success of the Estonian e-procurement system has been made possible by the following factors:
- Trust in the government by ensuring information availability, accessibility, and privacy assurance.
- Cyber security as a national agenda, supported by heterogeneous stakeholders, has encouraged provider registration.
- National drive towards a digital society, including Ministries, Agencies, municipalities and the majority of government systems.
- Enabling regulatory framework guided on compliance in different areas.
- Open data ensures that the life cycle of the contract is publicly available, which enables better contract management.
- Secure digital identity management makes authentication easy; digital IDs are available by default to every citizen and resident of Estonia.
- Capacity building programme for the training of trainers to support both providers and contracting authorities in preparing system documentation. In some cases, the private sector has also recruited resources to use the system.
Considering these experiences and lessons learned, the study visit was an opportunity for the PPDA delegation to learn from Estonia’s efforts to improve service delivery through e-governance, providing key change management avenues and opportunities to assist the development and implementation of a digital roadmap for Uganda – and more specifically, how technology can support the Authority’s role in regulating public procurement.
“The study visit revealed that Estonia adopted a progressive implementation plan. The strategy obligated contracting entities to implement at least 10% of their procurements online. For Uganda, however, [e-Procurement] has been rolled out in selected entities,” said Dr Batageka Kabagambe Levi, procurement specialist, PPDA Board Member, and delegation participant.
As part of the study visit, Dr Levi also learned that successful implementation does not hinge on technology alone: “Organisation, leadership, and attitude of individuals towards e-procurement were underscored,” he recalled. In order to assist Uganda to advance its e-procurement strategy and encourage widespread implementation across the country, Dr Levi proposes to, “support the PPDA in designing capacity building initiatives for both providers and entities.”
The diversity of the PPDA delegation, which included senior management, members of the IT Team, a project manager, a compliance manager, a capacity building manager, a technical advisor, and a board member, demonstrates the broad interest in and support for accelerating digitalisation across public services in Uganda.
In this sense, the delegation had the opportunity to learn about many different aspects of e-governance during the study visit, including open data and interoperability. In a highly digitised environment like Estonia, collecting and managing public data in a responsible and transparent manner is a high priority. This is possible with tools such as data literacy training programs, guidelines and requirements on data governance and data quality, agency data catalogue, and the National Data Portal. As part of the study visit, the PPDA delegation participated in training on data reuse culture and data-driven decision-making to learn more about leveraging open data for greater transparency and efficiency. They also recognised the need for underlying digital infrastructure in order to enable data exchange and digital procurement, such as a digital ID system, secure authentication of individuals and businesses and an operational data exchange platform.
“In my current role, I will strengthen cooperation between ministries, departments, and agencies to enhance sharing and use of data in the public sector,” said Doreen Kyazze Mulema, Manager in Compliance at PPDA and a delegation participant.
“[I learned that the] government is obliged to publish open data for the sake of transparency and to guarantee the citizens the right to obtain information. The disclosure of open data would boost innovation and foster economic growth. Transparency informs the policy process, gaining insight, knowledge, and overall participation,” Ms Mulema added.
Accompanying the PPDA’s digital transformation journey
The PPDA is seeking to promote efficient and transparent service delivery through enhanced regulation of the public procurement and disposal system. This aims to be achieved through its five-year strategic objectives, which focus on strengthening regulation of the public procurement and asset disposal system and institutional management capacity, enhancing stakeholder engagement and management, and leveraging technology to deliver more efficient public procurement.
Successfully achieving these objectives hinges upon the PPDA’s capacity in harnessing synergies created by stakeholder engagement and leveraging technology through the Electronic Government Procurement System (e-procurement) and automating internal processes.
To this end, this study visit to Estonia was a first step in the PPDA’s digital transformation journey.
Looking ahead, the AU-EU D4D Hub (through GIZ) will continue to assist the PPDA in the development of a detailed assessment of the Authority’s technology landscape, resulting in a coherent digital transformation roadmap. The AU-EU D4D Hub will also provide other training opportunities and is planning to facilitate a multi-stakeholder dialogue to increase engagement across groups in support of the Authority’s objectives.
The AU-EU D4D Hub supports African institutions like the PPDA in laying the foundation for an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation through technical assistance, knowledge sharing, and multi-stakeholder dialogues.