ACCORDING to the Transparency International (TI), trillions of dollars are spent each year on purchase of goods and services as well as on public projects by governments, world-over.
These works range from schools to hospitals, power plants to dams, office cleaning to construction of long stretches of roads.
These expenditures take up huge public resources thereby creating ideal opportunities for corruption.
TI indicates that from a public contract’s overall value, on average 10 to 25 per cent may disappear into the pockets of corrupt individuals in a country.
The corruption in public procurement, however, does not just mean squandered taxpayers’ money; it also entails below-par project results.
In short, it undermines and compromises the quality of works and services, which in turn becomes more costly and can lead to loss of lives.
Anyone involved in procurement of public goods and services, as well as tenders for works on behalf of the Government is hence a critical player.
We, therefore, want to echo the sentiments of the Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply (ZIPS) that the procurement officers in the country should desist from engaging in corrupt activities.
As already alluded to the people who are involved in procurement are susceptible to being involved in corruption and, therefore, are part of the solution when it comes to curbing the vice.
Buyers or procurement officers, especially those working in the public sector, usually find themselves in tempting situations because of the amounts involved in the transactions they oversee.
Instead of succumbing to the temptation, they should be in the first line of whistle blowers who should help in combating against the cancerous scourge, which is a drain on public coffers.
We agree with ZIPS president George Mumba that the procurement officers should strive to fight corruption in the sector, instead of being the drivers of the vice.
The officers should resist the temptation of being bribed and help bring to book the vendors who are in the habit of offering these bribes.
Further, the institute should also strive to ensure that its members do not engage in dubious dealing through continuous training on best practices in the profession.
As trained professionals, apart from resisting bribery, procurement officers should be guiding other managers on good procurement practices.
There are, currently so many cases, which are going on, resulting from failure by some Government officials in the country to adhere to laid-down procurement and tender procedures.
Year in, year out, the Auditor General’s reports reveal huge amounts of funds lost by the Government through public tenders and procurements.
Some of these cases emanate from sheer failure to follow the procedures.
If heeded to, the advice and guidance of the procurement officers on this matter would prove to be handy in curbing this seemingly rising trend.
The cost of corruption in the procurement process is high as it adds to the cost of services to the public.
Ultimately, corruption is a burden on the cost of doing business in a country.
Leaving it unabated would be allowing individuals to enrich themselves at the expense of the quality of public works and services.
Some people in corrupt countries have paid a terrible personal price for collapsed buildings as the result of the shoddy works perpetuated by this vice.
Others have lost their lives through counterfeit medicines as the result of the corruption in the supply chain.