Procurement can make positive contributions to social developmentIn 2004 EAP began a research collaboration with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the ICE Presidential Commission ‘Engineering without Frontiers’. These bodies share the common objective of enhancing the engineer’s contribution to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The aim of the research was to identify opportunities to improve the delivery of social development objectives by modifying the way in which publicly funded infrastructure projects are procured.
This research was based on the assumption that the way in which infrastructure projects are procured (and the details of the contracts entered into) can have a significant impact on the performance of the asset, as well as contributing to the achievement of broader social and economic goals. Procurement can therefore be used as a vehicle to deliver social objectives in infrastructure projects.
A report setting out how current procurement practices are hindering, or enabling, social development was published in November 2006 under the title: "Modifying Infrastructure Procurement to Enhance Social Development". The findings were presented at a series of workshops with major donors - including the African Development Bank and European Commission - and stakeholders in individual developing countries.
In the second phase of the research we have been assembling evidence of successful attempts to use procurement to deliver specific social, economic and/or industrial development objectives. We are now drawing out the lessons from these experiences to produce a series of guidance notes for donors, governments, procurement agencies, public sector clients and their advisers. The first such note, "Increasing local content in the procurement of infrastructure projects in low income countries" was launched at the International Conference of the Institution of Engineers Tanzania (IET) in Arusha in December 2008. A second briefing note shows how to use procurement to promote improved health and safety on construction projects.
Much of the funding invested in infrastructure construction in low income countries does not benefit contractors, suppliers and workers from those countries. Increasing the input of local labour, goods and services (local content) could make a major contribution to economic growth and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This briefing note has two aims: (1) to show policy-makers that expanding the local content of infrastructure projects is an achievable objective with real long-term benefits and (2) to provide practical guidance on how to do this.
The note is divided into two parts. In part I the authors show that the procurement process can serve as a powerful tool to promote local content in infrastructure construction. However a number of challenges are identified, notably the preference of clients donors, engineers and the business community for expensive, high tech and large scale projects which are not within the capability of the local industry, as well as the failure of international agencies to balance objectives. In part II some suggestions are put forward for overcoming the challenges and promoting local content through minor changes to procurement at each stage of the project cycle.
There are at least 60,000 fatal accidents a year on construction sites around the world. Many more workers suffer from work related injuries and ill-health. The report points out that the main causes of death and injury are both well understood and entirely preventable. A number of international agencies have been working to improve health and safety in the workplace, but until now the use of procurement procedures has received very little attention. This briefing note explains how health and safety should be addressed at each stage of the procurement cycle.
The report was developed by Jill Wells (EAP) and John Hawkins (ICE). It draws on a detailed analysis of documentation followed by focus group discussions in four case study countries, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria. The key recommendation emerging from the research is that the greatest social benefit will be derived if construction projects are identified, planned and designed in alignment with national development plans and taking into consideration operation and maintenance requirements. Project budgets should make adequate provisions for “social objectives” which need clearer definitions in contract documents. The report also advised using alternatives to the predominant “lowest bidder” approach to procurement advocated by most international development banks. Particular effort is needed to strengthen the enforcement of contract conditions.