Monday, August 13, 2012

Procurement issues - a problem with competence? Surely not.

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam's announcement that the government will look into widely criticized e-procurement issues is timely and very much appreciated. But his comment that this was all to do with incompetence and compliance shows that perhaps he hasn't quite appreciated what the real problem is.

If indeed compliance was the problem, surely this would have been detected easily through the regular audits, and the necessary corrective action taken. If corrective action had not been taken despite non-compliance having been diagnosed, something is seriously wrong with management. To lay the blame at the level of the procurement officer is misguided to say the least.

If anything, the procurement officer is only all too careful to follow all procedures. He knows he will be caught out by the audit if he is non-compliant. I am not talking here about any intention to cheat. This can happen even if procedures are followed. That is why Minister Khaw can confidently attest in the NParks wayang that "procurement formally observed and complied with the existing rules".

The real problem is not one of incompetence and lack of compliance at the level of the procurement office. Rather it is the lack of understanding at the level of the approving officers and senior management about why the procedures are in place. It is the fallacy that being right is only about procedural correctness.

No comments: