By HUMPHREY NKONDE
The Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) has embarked on training suppliers, bidders and contractors in electronic Government Procurement (e-GP).
ZPPA’s latest training in e-GP was offered to suppliers, bidders and contractors on September 20 at Government Complex in the capital Lusaka.
Other places where training has previously been conducted in the last three months are Ndola on the Copperbelt, Chinsali in Muchinga Province, Livingstone in Southern Province and Mongu in Western Province.
According to ZPPA, a government department entrusted with the task of managing large procurements for government departments, agencies and local authorities, says Zambia needs to advance to electronic procurement systems.
“E-GP facilitates higher quality outcomes for public procurement through improved accessibility and interoperability,” says ZPPA’s official website.
The government department claims that online technologies will ensure compliance with existing procurement policy and legislation.
“An e-GP system can automate the required procurement procedures thus allowing neither purchasing agencies nor bidders to deviate from public procurement process,” ZPPA claims.
It says that in this way e-GP will help government to reduce opportunities for corrupt practices.
Electronic filing of tenders will not only be cheaper, but will also allow international bidders with access to the Internet to participate without having to travel to Zambia.
Most of the foreign bidders and contractors, especially from China, are involved in the construction of roads and building of schools, clinics and other public buildings.
Hardcopy filing has been costly for those participating in public procurement in the sense that the system is centralised, requiring participate to pay for lodging and transport in Lusaka.
Besides public procurement, the e-procurement system will also be accompanied by e-agreements among public procurement stakeholders.
“The e-GP will have a provision to set up framework agreements (e-Framework Agreement,” says ZPPA.
However, there are concerns that some of the stakeholders who are in rural areas will fail to bid due lack of access to low penetration of Information Communication Technologies (ICTSs).
Most of them do not have access to computers, the Internet, i-pads or i-phones to participate in e-procurement.
“Many contractors and bidders in rural areas do not have access to the Internet and will therefore fail to file bids,” remarked John Mutale, an entrepreneur who runs an internet café in Ndola.
He has noticed that some Ndola residents failed to file electronic tax returns to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) because they either lacked access to the Internet or were not computer literate.
ZRA is in the process of devising a mobile phone application to allow small and medium size businesses to file their tax returns.
At the moment tax payers are physically going to ZRA to transact or use the Internet at a few points to file e-returns.
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