MANAGEMENT from those in Obanda (2012). The dimensions

MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK.
The private sector wants more training for SMEs’ on
how to participate in public procurement and disposal
activities. Procurement is about the private sector. We supply
goods and services. But we do not understand what it takes to
go through these processes? Do we know what it takes to win a
bid? Not many of us understand these procedures (Badagawa
Gideon cited by Rwothungeyo Billy 2015). Further, all
activities undertaken by the Government require an efficient
public procurement system that delivers quality goods, works
and services in a timely manner and at an economical price.
Value for money is key (Kiwanuka Maria cited by
Rwothungeyo Billy 2015).
To balance the provision of the needed training for
SMEs and attainment of value for money in government
procurement, we address dimensions within a supportive
management framework that will achieve this dual objective.
These dimensions are largely analytically derived from those in
Obanda (2012). The dimensions are inextricably linked as
articulated in the systems approach.
Professionalism
A major scope for improving SMEs participation in
public tenders is through increasing professionalism in
procurement. Professionalism can be defined as the status,
methods, or standards within a career. Public procurement
professionalism should be emphasized to enable SMEs access
to public procurement contracts.
Badagawa Gideon (2014) poses the following question:
Why should it take so long to register property, start a business,
connect electricity, secure a trade license, a construction
permit, pay taxes and move goods across borders? He then
posits that the answer lies in the mindset of our civil servants.
Many of them have constituted themselves into another big
barrier to investment and growth. The civil service must change
their work culture. Hence with regard to the procurement
process in procuring and disposal entities in Uganda, public
procurement professionals need the requisite combination of
skills and competencies to develop into a coordinated, well
equipped and informed profession. This entails keeping
selection criteria proportionate, that SMEs who believe that the
scope of a framework agreement precludes their involvement
and that the bidding procedure is more complex and prolonged,
are not deterred.
Further, Public Procurement Officers should be able to
make use of the possibility to conclude framework agreements
with several economic operators and to organize mini
competitions for parties to the framework agreement as actual
procurement needs arises.
Implementation
A review of literature from the Procurement Innovation
Group (2009) and Choi Jeong-Wook (2010) reveals that
ensuring that payments are made on time is paramount. A
provision to alleviate the financial burden of SMEs, by
providing for a 30 days’ payment deadline as a default, level of
interest for late payments etc. would be beneficial in this
regard. Ideally: Simplify the documents necessary for making
payments for example use electronic tools; do not suspend
payment without a valid reason; enhance the use of electronic
payment; simplify controls; do not postpone payment until the
end of the year.
The adoption of the measures above would mitigate the
time-consuming paperwork which is among the most
complaints voiced by SMEs. As SMEs’ normally do not have
large and specialized administrative capacities, keeping
administrative requirements to a minimum is essential.
Training of stakeholders.
The Procuring and Disposing Entities (PDE) are
government ministries and other public bodies engaged in
procurement and disposal activities. Each PDE should in the
training include: an Accounting Officer, a Contracts
Committee, Procurement and Disposal Unit Officers, User
Departments and Evaluation Committees. Besides the
Procurement Officers, the other stakeholders are not mandated
to be professionals. They however play crucial roles in the
procurement process. They hence need to be trained into the
formal tools and methods friendly to SMEs participation. The
Evaluation Committee and Contracts Committee members
particularly need to be conversant with the available formal
scoring methods appropriate to offer an added advantage to
SMEs as the former conducts the actual scoring while the latter
approves the methods to be used. Given the scenario in
Uganda, this is a vital prerequisite.
User departments can equally be trained to arrange their
work in lots that are content wise and logically friendly to
SMEs capacity. Linthorst and Telgen (2006) in an example
offer that, content-wise road maintenance may be divided into
three sets of tasks: major overhaul, regular maintenance and
minor repairs. Meanwhile, a logical division may be into major
throughways, minor roads and residential areas.
Training of the relevant stakeholders will hence
stimulate an increase in the number of SMEs’ accessing and
winning contracts as more tenders will become SME
compliant. An increased involvement of SMEs into public
procurement will result into higher competition for public
contracts, leading to better value for money.
Information
Ensuring easy access to all relevant information on
business opportunities in public procurement is of key
importance for SMEs. In Uganda, it is apparent that after
newspapers, established relationships are very important in
terms of accessing contracts. According to the Commonwealth
(2010) findings, 38% of the respondents stated that
opportunities were communicated through either direct
invitation from the buyer or through some form of personal
contact. Logically, established relationships represent a barrier
for those SMEs who are not currently engaged with the public
sector.
Most empirical studies on the impact of ICTs have
found a positive correlation between the use of ICT and
corporate performance (UNCTAD in Okello-Obura and
Matovu 2011). The use of Information and Communication
Technology (ICT) is vital given that the whole country is
covered by the mobile telecommunication network and hence
has internet potential. Particularly develop websites that may be
helpful to SMEs by enabling cheap and quick communication,
e.g. downloading the contract documents and any
supplementary documents without incurring copying or mailing
costs. Adopting this would enable publication of public
procurement notices online; multi-functional search engines;
direct downloading of contract notices and accompanying
documentation; electronic tendering facility enabling entities
receive bids electronically in conformity with the PPDA
regulations.
However, Okello-Obura and Matovu (2011) pose the
following pertinent questions: Which language to use? Do you
have translation services? What are the changing needs of
SMEs? Do the SMEs have the information search and retrieval
skills? Are they competent in ICTs usage? What of the
availability of the computing resources? These are the
challenges that befall this intervention that need to be
addressed. All in all, it boils down to the provision of
information in the right form to the right user using the right
means as advanced by Okello-Obura and Matovu (2011).
The Procurement and Disposal Units (PDUs) should be
the local desks that help SMEs to increase their involvement in
public procurement contracts. They should help SMEs
familiarize themselves with their respective websites.
Instituting an independent national public procurement training
and information center would provide personalized assistance
to SMEs which would be very helpful in tendering for public
contracts.
One of the major barriers of Ugandan SMEs access to
procurement contracts identified was that, no feedback was
made available about previous unsuccessful tenders. Giving
feedback to SMEs is essential. In order to prepare for future
bids, it is very helpful for a tenderer to see which aspects of the
bid were considered strong by the procuring entity. This is
provided for in the PPDA Act being a principle of
transparency.
We envisage that the adoption of this management framework
may:
? Spur government agencies to consolidate the
development a National Public Procurement Policy that
specifically addresses challenges to SMEs access to
public procurement contracts.
? Strengthen the coordination, harmonization and
monitoring of on-going efforts to professionalize
procurement officers.
? Vitalize national commitment and actions for increased
attention to procurement officers’ professionalization as
a means of accelerating social welfare for SMEs, youths
and other vulnerable groups.
? Improve national capacity for procurement management
as well as support institutions, systems and structures to
respond to the issues of SMEs, youths and other
marginalized groups.
PREREQUISITES TO FACILITATE SMES A2PPCS.
A public procurement policy and legislative provisions
are important to enable SMEs A2PPCs. This would
significantly improve the socio-economic empowerment of the
marginalized groups and ensure inclusive growth of SMEs e.g.
30% of low cost procurements should be reserved for SMEs.
The current legislative framework does not explicitly compel or
provide for public entities to incorporate SMEs in their
procurement plans. Support from the political leadership at
both national and local level is crucial in this regard.
Proactive risk management is vital. It is important to
consider the risk that any short-term interruption in the policy
may pose to the beneficiaries. Hence, continuous capacity
building and complimentary actions should be taken to
facilitate SMEs to other commercial channels where additional
long-term and profitable relationships can be established.
There is a need for an independent national public
procurement training and information center. This would
among others provide the crucial research into innovative
procurement practices and the continuous development of
procurement professionals e.g. provide procurement officers
with help in drawing up SME compliant tenders.
CONCLUSION
This paper has shown that the costs of facilitating SMEs
A2PPCs and integrating SMEs into the supplier selection
practice may be enormous. It should however, be undertaken
given the socio-economic context of developing countries and
the benefits for sustainable and inclusive growth of SMEs.