The thirteenth yearly Smart Procurement World Indaba will be themed Courage and Urgency: Let’s Walk the Talk, and through its advocating for the professionalisation and regulation of procurement it aims to spur the procurement industry towards greater accountability.
The indaba will take place from September 16 to 19 at the Gallagher Convention Centre, in Midrand.
The notions of courage and urgency speak to the current state of South Africa post-State capture, characterised by State-owned entities (SOEs) being in dire straits, and corruption in the public and private sectors.
Event organiser Smart Procurement content head Mediacy Mudekwa says procurement professionals in South Africa desperately need an official designation and, in turn, more focused regulation. This has been discussed for years, yet little actionable progress has been made, he adds.
Therefore, the event intends to present “real, tangible progress” that will eliminate the need for another conference that is filled with well-meaning talk but no action, he explains to Engineering News.
The National Treasury has been advocating for the professionalisation of the procurement role, having conceptualised a supply chain council to provide guidance and governance on procurement practices, Mudekwa mentions.
However, he points out that: “We don’t actually have a dedicated governing body for procurement in South Africa. The supply chain council is just a concept. It has not been finalised. It has no authority. It has not been adopted in Parliament. It has not taken anyone to task.”
The professionalisation of the procurement role has been rolled out in other countries, including in Africa. However, South Africa is behind the curve, with no comparable legislation or policies in place. This lack of proper regulation has created opportunities for corrupt and unethical procurement practices.
Regional Cross Learning
As part of the Smart Procurement World Indaba’s regional cross learning programme, Ghana Public Procurement Authority CEO Adjenim Boateng Adjei will address delegates on how Ghana has regulated the procurement profession and the impact this is having on the country’s economy.
In Ghana, the Ministry of Public Procurement, as well as the Public Procurement Authority, ensures that professional, ethical and regulated procurement practices are enshrined.
Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply president Chibwe Darius Mwelwa will also speak at the event, sharing his experience and expertise on how Zambia has legislated and licensed the profession, and what can be gained from the country’s strong ethical codes and strict penalties for contraventions.
Kenya’s Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply membership manager Josephine Mollen Atieno will share the experience and expertise that her country has to offer on procurement governance and regulation.
“We’re hoping that, by bringing in some of our African counterparts, people will wake up and realise that we need to take the proper regulation of the procurement profession seriously,” Mudekwa states, adding that only strong political will can make this a reality.
A 2018 survey conducted for the Strategic Integrated Projects by the then Economic Development Department – now part of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition – showed that almost 60% of those in procurement roles in South Africa were not qualified as procurement professionals.
Those performing procurement tasks tended to be project managers, accountants and engineers, besides others.
Licensing and regulating the procurement role would not only curb corruption and unethical buying practices but also ensure better protection for procurement professionals.
“Currently, procurement is too heavily influenced by politicians and executives. Those in procurement roles complain that political or executive pressure is too much. They can’t function properly or make the strategic decisions they need to make,” Mudekwa states.
He adds that the fear of losing one’s job is a primary concern, and that procurement professionals need to be ensured of proper protection should they turn whistle-blower, which can be ensured only if the profession is properly licensed and regulated.
The financial woes of SOEs and the various resulting enquiries into their spending, along with private companies being delisted from the JSE because of financial mismanagement, have put procurement as a practice into the spotlight.
“It’s easy to blame procurement. However, many procurement professionals have been forced into paper-pusher roles, simply taking instructions from someone higher up. Few want to acknowledge the role that executives play in the situation,” Mudekwa notes.
Despite these key challenges and the serious discussions that need to be had, Mudekwa stresses that the Smart Procurement World Indaba is, ultimately, going to have a positive focus.
“If we don’t have industry leaders talking about these serious issues, we can’t enact change. We have to talk about the light at the end of the tunnel,” he concludes.