Ghana launches Africa’s first national e-procurement system

By on 14/05/2019
Learning curve: Ghana’s new e-procurement system will improve transparency in commissioning public projects, like this new school (Image courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Jennifer Aldridge).

Public sector e-procurement is gathering momentum in West Africa, with Ghana in April becoming the first country in the region to establish a national system.

The initiative, funded by the World Bank at a cost of US$5m, aims to reduce corruption by cutting the amount of direct human contact involved in tenders, reducing middlemen, and achieving efficiency savings through automation. The World Bank estimates that the project could save Ghana US$100m annually.

Ghana’s vice president, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, said at the launch on April 29 that the e-procurement system, designed by Greek IT firm European Dynamics, will allow the public to track any tender application in real time.

Online shopping

According to Ghana’s Public Procurement Authority (PPA), public procurement accounts for about 29% of imports into the country. In 2017, the PPA launched a web-based Unit Cost of Infrastructure Budget Estimator Tool, which it says can eliminate the risks associated with unrealistic budget estimates in procurement planning for roads, power, water and sewerage projects.

Phase One of the Ghana project, involving five government agencies, has already started, while the second phase – which will include all 34 of the country’s ministries, as well as public universities and metropolitan assemblies – will begin at the end of June. The roll-out will continue until the end of 2020.

Ghana’s system uses the Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) developed by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Omidyar Network and the World Bank. A guide to using OCDS to assess procurement system performance was published in April by the Open Contracting Partnership.

Opportunities and obstacles

In 2018, a study published by academics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia examined 50 national examples to explore the role of public e-procurement technology in reducing corruption. The paper found that transparency and accountability are the most important benefits from public e-procurement, while increased competition among bidders and improved quality of work and services also results. 

Globally there are still obstacles, the study found, in the form of existing procurement processes, and political or user-group resistance to the new system.

But there is clear progress across the continent. In September 2018, 13 heads of African public procurement authorities from countries including South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya signed a declaration in Washington committing them to use innovative technologies. In April this year, Nigeria’s Lagos State Public Procurement Agency completed a move to an e-procurement platform.

About David Whitehouse

David Whitehouse, a freelance writer in Paris, is the author of a book on France's role in the Rwandan genocide and the French trials of Rwandan suspects which began in Paris in 2014. He also co-authored the autobiography of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy published in 2013.

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