Public Procurement in the time of COVID-19

The public health emergency that faced Guyana from the middle of January 2020, occasioned by the COVID-19 Pandemic, has highlighted the weakness of the existing legislative framework for public procurement in not having measures or provisions to specifically deal with emergency public procurement.

Literature from the United Nations define emergencies as “urgent situations in which there is clear evidence that an event or a series of events has occurred which imminently threatens human life/lives or livelihoods, and where the event or a series of events produces disruption in the life of a community on an exceptional scale”.

When an emergency hits, simplified emergency procurement policies and procedures must be available to ensure that procurement can be fast enough to meet the emergency needs while also ensuring adequate levels of accountability.

Lessons learned have consistently demonstrated that in the first stages of an emergency, regular procurement procedures are overly cumbersome or inadequate to deal with the fast-paced and urgent demands required for emergency procurement. Simplified procedures must therefore be available for use in the emergency period, otherwise, considerable slowing of the procurement process will result and delay any relief effort envisaged.

The determination of an emergency generally allows the use of any procurement method, including direct solicitations, and the modification of the procedures for the procurement method chosen in order to satisfy the urgency of the procurement, within an environment of competition as is practicable in the circumstances.

Relevant circumstances include—

(a) the time and resources required to prepare, or complete the preparation of solicitation documents;

(b) the time required to permit solicitation by competitive sealed bids;

(c) the degree of urgency of the procurement; and

(d) the time required if a less stringent competitive procedure were adopted.

Emergency procurement procedures are necessary and should be documented as part of the regular procurement policies. They should be able to be activated immediately when an emergency is declared and have a stated duration for its use. Any extension must obtain the requisite approval.

The response of the Public Procurement Commission, following the onset of the pandemic, has been to develop draft Emergency Procurement Regulations for consideration by the appropriate agencies. The objective of the Regulations is to ensure proper administration of emergency procurement proceedings by adding specific guidelines to the Procurement Act.

Model procurement documents and templates that lay out how entities should execute procurement during disaster response and recovery, will be developed and made widely accessible to all procuring entities. Post-award contract oversight functions and procedures will also be emphasized to ensure the timely implementation and completion of post-disaster contracts, including a monitoring and evaluation framework for contract performance.