The World Bank is proceeding with an initiative titled “Use of Country System in Bank-Supported Operations: Proposed Pilot Program.” This program would allow borrowing countries to use their own procurement methods in lieu of adhering to Bank requirements when procuring goods and services under Bank-funded projects.
The World Bank, which faces significant challenges in the areas of corruption and transparency associated with its projects, attempted to implement a similar initiative in 2005 that was rescinded in the face of strong Congressional and industry opposition, and the Bank’s own recognition that it could not provide the proper oversight to protect against procurement fraud.
In order to strengthen the methodology being used to conduct its pilot program and in developing oversight of country systems procurements, the Bank has established an International Technical Advisory Group (ITAG) composed of 12 members representing industry, professional associations, civil society organizations, and development partners and/or international organizations. ACEC, as part of an organization of stakeholder associations, actively participates with the ITAG and on its internal working groups. Early ITAG efforts have focused on securing access to all relevant information on candidate countries’ existing procurement systems and adequate time for the working groups to intensively review this information. The ITAG is also working with the Bank to establish objective criteria to evaluate the success of the Pilot Program. The intent is to have meaningful pilot efforts using effective assessment tools in carefully selected countries, with measurable and monitored results that provide true evaluation of the methodology and oversight provisions for any more comprehensive program that may emerge. For example, in addition to establishing that a country’s procurement systems and processes have an adequate degree of equivalence to Bank guidelines, the country must be able to demonstrate the capacity to implement such systems and processes both for the pilot program and over an extended period of time. Ultimately, the goal is that any eventual use of in-country procurement systems is strong, fair, free of corruption, and transparent.
ACEC supports the Bank’s goal of capacity building in borrowing countries, but believes that the current pilot program must be strengthened to achieve adequate equivalence with current Bank best practices — including the use of Standard Bidding Documents — and should establish comprehensive assessment tools to measure the effectiveness of day-to-day procurement practices within borrowing countries. ACEC will continue to actively participate with the ITAG to help bring about these goals.