The promotion of competition has been identified as one of the major challenges of the Public Procurement System in Colombia. Despite its importance, it was only in 2019 that a tool allowing to effectively monitor the participation of the interested parties on the bidding processes was developed and implemented by the Colombian Procurement Agency. Thanks to this tool, participants are able to diagnose flaws, and make suggestions or requests for improvements.
The Project is a result of an OECD recommendation (as part of a public procurement review in 2016) regarding competitive methods, since it was suggested that the Colombian Public Procurement needed to “create an open and level playing field for suppliers, increase efficiency and drive savings”. In Colombia, direct contracting is not necessarily an exception, which bypasses the benefits that could come from effective competition. Having a report that ranks Public Entities is a useful and practical tool that fights bid rigging, promotes transparency and assures quality of work, supply and service contracts. It also engages the participants of the purchase processes to establish and maintain competitive markets.
Before 2019 such a tool did not exist, and despite the uncertainty of the project, it has been well received and accepted by the buyers and providers. Since its implementation and after the first ranking announcement (January 2019), Public Entities have requested individual reports for 66 offices entrusted to advance procurement, to which, besides sending the requested information, it has been suggested to consult the "Guide to implement Competition in Public Purchases", structured to improve the generation of competition in all the processes of public supply.
This is evidence of the positive results that arose in a short period of time, as the ranking report not only generated a way of monitoring public procurement but has stimulated Entities to compete between them to achieve a major participation in their selection processes, and consequently to be ranked by the Colombian Procurement Agency. In this context, it is an institutionalized practice that will help the Agency to analyze, evaluate and monitor the behavior of the Public Procurement System in search of its innovation and continuous improvement.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
This is a tool that is completely new to the public sector, that has never before been tried in the Agency nor by other Colombian organizations. It is an answer to the constant complaints and flaws of the Colombian Public Procurement system in terms of competition and participation. It provides an open and level playing field for suppliers, increases efficiency and drives savings for the Public Entities.
With this tool, public officers are forced to improve competition in order to avoid been publicly questioned. It is a way to promote more value for money and rethink some traditional institutional factors, such as: organizational structures for public sector services, regulations, legislative and funding arrangements, as well as cultural factors.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Currently, we are making the innovation happen. As the central government procurement agency, we are also using this tool to understand how Buyers are establishing and maintaining competitive markets. Subsequently, we want to collect the data and make a diagnosis of the status quo after the implementation of the ranking report and in that sense, identify lessons learned.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The main collaborators are the Government Officials and the Companies (Providers). The former create the procurement processes, define the need and determine the demand. The latter provide the goods and services and define the supply and the conditions of the market.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Users need a competitive public procurement system, because in that way they can oversee and learn about the public budget's execution.
The stakeholder is the Colombian regulatory agency of competitiveness, who is in charge of regulating fair commercial practices, promoting competition and acting as the office of registry and patent.
Beneficiaries are mainly the final users of the public service since this tool helps improve the quality of public services.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The results are positive in the sense that the report has been welcomed by the Public Sector, people are starting to get interested and curious about the ranking, yet it is at its implementation phase.
We expect to implement this innovation in all of the public entities of Colombia to promote and maintain competitive markets, and promote open government and innovation.
Challenges and Failures
The challenges that we have encountered relates to the need to encourage stakeholders to use the public purchase electronic platform (SECOP), as well as anti-competitive practices and the implementation of competition strategies in Public Entities.
Conditions for Success
We consider that the success of this Project is mainly thanks to strong infrastructure services that facilitate the use of electronic platforms, as well as connectivity, which guarantees real access to public procurement information. This ensures equal treatment and abolishes any scope for discriminatory purchasing through enhanced levels of transparency and accountability. In addition, the development of a Competition Guide was useful to explain the procedures to stakeholders. Finally, the political will of public officers and Authorities was key.
The Project was recently launched, therefore at the moment we do not have lessons to be learned. We expect to have a final report at the end of 2019 with results and indicators.
9 April 2019