Divisional Workshop on Public Procurement held in Rangpur

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A divisional workshop titled “How to Engage Citizens and Ensure Social Accountability in Public Procurement” was held on Tuesday, 19 July 2016, at Begum Rokeya Auditorium, RDRS Bangladesh, Rangpur, jointly organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU), IME Division of Planning Ministry. The objective of the workshop was to increase awareness amongst citizens and receive feedback from the local level on the Third Party Engagement piloting program.

Md. Faruk Hossain, Director General of CPTU was present as the Chief Guest. Md. Rahat Anowar, Deputy Commissioner of Rangpur presided over the workshop. Md. Shafiul Alam, Communication and Social Awarness Consultant of CPTU, delivered the welcome remarks at the event. Md. Rafiqul Islam Talukder, Senior Program Manager of BIGD spoke at the event about the three dimensions of accountability, vertical, horizontal and downward, linking the downward accountability with social accountability and citizen’s involvement in the public procurement process.

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Md. Azizur Rahman, LGED Officer, Rangpur and Dr. Mirza Hassan, Adjunct Fellow, BIGD and Team Leader of the Social Accountability Component of PPRP-II, delivered a brief overview of the Social Accountability component of the project and how BIGD is facilitating the dissemination of information regarding the project and shared the field experiences in relation to mobilization of the citizen committees.

Followed by the plenary session, a group-work session was organized. It was divided into four groups and each group was provided with three sets of questions regarding existing laws, strategy of citizen involvement and the question of long-term sustainability of the project. The recommendations and suggestions that came from threadbare discussion of different groups were wide-ranging and constructive. Mr. Ekram Hossain, Senior Manager (Communications) and Mr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Talukdar, Senior Program Manager, both from BIGD facilitated both the plenary and the group-work sessions.

During the group discussion, most of the participants agreed that there should be citizen engagement in the public procurement system. They also highlighted that it will bring more transparency, accountability in the procurement process and help to improve the work quality. It is essential to provide proper training regarding technical issues to the citizen committees before they begin their monitoring process. Government officials talked about the current E-GP system, including the benefits and challenges of having this digital framework. They suggested that the citizen committees should be engaged in the project implementation stage but not in tendering stage. However, contractors are not interested in citizen involvement in procurement because they can hamper their work progress and affect the quality. Others present during the workshop argued that because monitoring of public procurement requires technical knowledge, citizens should not be involved in the process unless they have the essential technical expertise.

More than 90 participants attended the event, including government officials, engineers, academics, contractors, political party members, journalists, civil society members, partner NGOs (ASOD and ESDO) to take part in the discussion and share their opinions.

BIGD is providing the technical assistance to the CPTU to help design and implement the social accountability mechanism that aims to institutionalize and develop a third party monitoring system in the public procurement process of the country. Citizen’s engagement in public procurement will improve the quality of works, ensure social accountability and create an environment for the best use of public money. The involvement of citizens in public procurement can also identify the irregularities and errors of procurement. To make people aware about the existing rules and regulations of procurement process, engaging campaigns are required to involve citizens in the process.

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