Tempting offers to secure contracts
In a recent World Bank report titled "Assessment of Bangladesh Public Procurement System", the global lender highlighted the weaknesses and progress in the government procurement process. The report is based on information of 296,760 e-Government (e-GP) and 12,000 traditional paper-based purchases by the government between fiscal years 2012 and 2019.
The report elaborates the different anomalies practiced for securing contracts in public procurement, highlighting the bleak reality of transparency and accountability in our bureaucracy.
Bidders need to pay kickbacks in the form of financial benefits, arrange trips and host dinners for government officials to win public procurement contracts. Among the surveyed bidders, 62 per cent reportedly showered with gifts worth above Tk 25,000 each, about 17 per cent gave gifts worth below Tk 25,000 each, 17 per cent paid for dinners for government officials and 4 per cent invited officials to trips.
Moreover, the big contractors' monopolies are reigning over the system and the small contractors still remain left out. The biding process is still now less competitive where 40 per cent of government procurement is made through open competitive method (OTM) that uses a price gap of 10 per cent of the estimated cost.
Needs be mentioned, the government introduced online system for eliminating corruption and malpractices previously attributed to the conventional paper-based lengthy procurement system. But it seems like corruption has found its own way to be practiced by the miscreants. And therefore, the question arises, in what ways can we eliminate rampant corruption?
The financial minister blamed our corrupt mindset. Admitting all forms of corrupt practices, he added that some unscrupulous people share information regarding the bidding process and estimated costs in advance. However, amendments to laws would not be enough to stop such dishonesty.
Moreover, syndicate of unscrupulous bidders also continue to secure contracts by some politically powerful heads and thus fair competition is being hindered. And we should not be forgetful about some government high-ups, whose names are yet to come out in the open.
Now, as the cat has come out of the bag, we need to deal the situation with integrated involvement. WB has already suggested the removal of 10-per cent cap from open tendering method and alternative solutions to tackle the issue of abnormally low number of bids. WB also stressed the need for speeding up the process of conversion of the Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) to the proposed Bangladesh Public Procurement Authority.
Last but not the least; it's time to reveal the list of corrupt officials who are taking advantages from the contractors. We also need to know the names of the political leaders, helping the bidders to monopolise and capturing the market while making hefty profits.