Public Procurement refers to the spending of taxpayers’ money by the government to acquire various goods and services for delivery to the public. Better road networks, hospital facilities and schools are just a few of the public goods that procurement delivers. Considering the limited resources available to governments, it is important that these goods and services are acquired at reasonable costs. If procurement is not properly managed it often results in massive wastage of public funds. Sadly, many citizens don’t show much interest in public procurement unless a scandal breaks about excessive spending or corruption in a particular contract.
There is a general misconception that the procurement function can be carried out by almost anyone. This misconception no doubt has its roots in the old view of procurement as a clerical function, a view that fails to recognize its strategic importance. Whether in the private or public sector, procurement handles substantial financial resources. Why would an organization take the risk of vesting the management of such major value in the hands of someone who lacks the skills and competencies to handle it? Indeed, to ensure successful execution of the procurement function, contracting agencies must hire trained professionals or invest in training and developing staff to reach the required level of competency.
This discussion becomes even more relevant now because of the new Procurement Law for Trinidad and Tobago. This law introduces a framework where agencies that previously had procurement activities managed on their behalf by the Central Tenders Board, will now have the responsibility of executing these processes for themselves. This regime will have to be supported by an appropriate procurement human resource structure that matches the complexity of the functions to the level of the positions. In well -developed procurement systems, positions such as Buyer, Procurement Officer, Procurement Manager and Contract Manager, to name a few, reflect the stratification of the various job responsibilities.