By placing specialist support directly in Malawi’s Ministry of Health, DPSA is helping to develop robust processes and build local capacity
Making sure aid gets to the people who need it most is an ever-present challenge in many countries. Donor funds and the humanitarian goods procured are frequently denominated in Western currencies, while staff involved on the ground are generally paid salaries in local currencies. With goods often being highly valuable items – such as vehicles, IT equipment and pharmaceuticals – the amounts of money changing hands can seem huge by local standards. For people with very little, there may be a temptation to divert funds to other uses.
Donors want to ensure that what is procured reaches the target beneficiaries. So what is the best way of doing this? An approach advocated by DPSA is to build capacity in countries that have less-mature procurement governance and systems, to help ensure their processes are robust and transparent. One way in which we do this is by placing procurement oversight experts within organisations receiving aid.
An example is our work with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Malawi. In response to a request from DFID Malawi in 2016, we commenced our procurement oversight service in MoH’s offices in Lilongwe. This was funded by UK aid from the British people. The oversight ensures that all tendering is undertaken in an open and fair manner, by independently assessing tendering documents put together by the MoH, checking specifications and reviewing the evaluation and pricing models.
Managing fiduciary risk, and building trust via procurement activities, calls for determination and detailed knowledge of the processes and practices in the countries concerned. Therefore we can bring in external specialists when providing procurement oversight services. This is the case in Malawi, where Franz Frederichs is leading the team. He had just the right background for the role: 25 years’ experience of working in procurement, an understanding of Malawian culture, and knowledge of the World Bank regulations that underpin the MoH procurement processes.
“Specific expertise is central to DPSA’s safeguarding efforts,” says Stephen Ashcroft, Head of Growth & Partnerships, DPSA. “In the case of the MoH, the donor will only release the funds for a particular procurement if it is confident that everything is in place. Having the right team in the country is vital in this regard.”
Developing local capacity
True to our commitment to help aid go further, we envisage a longer-term initiative that sustains rigorous ways of working. In collaboration with the MoH, DPSA is analysing the benefits of a step-change in ways of working. The intention is to build the capacity of a strong local team, which can work with minimal oversight, further developing trust with donors.