Public procurement : panacea or fallacy - a case of public service delivery in Zimbabwe.
The public sector plays an important role in the economy in delivering public services and infrastructure development. Public procurement is an essential element in the delivery of these services, through the acquisition of goods, services and construction in the most economic and efficient manner whilst ensuring value for money and complains about poor service delivery necessitated this study. This study focuses on the challenges in the public procurement process that detract from service delivery in Zimbabwe, the extent the challenges are experienced and how the public procurement process can be improved to enhance service delivery. The public sector in Zimbabwe comprises ministries, parastatals and local authorities but the study focused on the parastatals and the ministries only. The study seeks to examine the challenges faced in the public procurement process and to what extent they detract from service delivery in Zimbabwe. Initially, the challenges were identified through a literature review and interviews with two ministries and three parastatals. Using this data, a questionnaire was compiled and sent to 25 ministries and 52 parastatals to determine (1) whether these were challenges that detract from service delivery and (2) to what extent they were challenges. This study is by nature descriptive and exploratory and contains quantitative and qualitative elements, using mixed methods research based on the pragmatic research paradigm. Challenges were examined in the public procurement process, human resources, finance and budgeting and the public procurement legal framework. The findings of this research indicate that the challenges faced in the public procurement process that detract from service delivery are: firstly, the length of the process, which is significantly long and inefficient as a result of the State Procurement Board involvement in all activities in the public procurement process; secondly, inadequacy of thresholds; and, finally, lack of proper training and knowledge of the public procurement policies, procedures and legal requirements in the process. It was found that the majority of the challenges in the public procurement process that detract from service delivery result from the public procurement legal framework, which centralises the procurement authority at the SPB. Reforms in the legal framework are recommended to devolve the procurement authority to the procuring entities to allow the SPB to assume a monitoring and oversight role of supervising the procuring entities and policy issues.
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