On 17 to 18 June 2024, the Public Procurement Research Group at the University of Nottingham hosted its biennial international conference on public procurement law. The 2024 conference again gathered scholars from multiple disciplines around the world to discuss current research and developments in the field of public procurement.

APLU was again one of the collaborating partners for the conference and contributed to several sessions. Prof Geo Quinot delivered a plenary keynote that focused on reconceptualising public procurement (law and practice) globally. Prof Sope Williams shared insights from her most recent research addressing the corruption barriers to gender responsive procurement in a session that focused on diversity in procurement. Prof Quinot also joined Prof François Lichère of the Université Jean Moulin Lyon and Director of the Chair of Public Contract Law (Chaire de droit des contrats publics), Prof Christopher Yukins of the George Washington University School of Law and Prof Tünde Tátrai of the Corvinus University of Budapest on a panel that discussed deference to contracting authority decisions in procurement disputes.

APLU Deputy Director graduates from prestigious GWU postgraduate procurement programme

APLU Deputy Director, Dr Allison Anthony, graduated on 19 May 2024 from the prestigious LLM in Government Procurement Law from George Washington University School of Law in Washington DC in the United States. This programme is the oldest dedicated degree programme focusing specifically on public procurement law. APLU and the Government Procurement Law Program at GWU have a long-standing close relationship of collaboration in the field of public procurement law. With Dr Anthony now an alumni of both entities, these bonds will inevitably continue to grow stronger.

Major new publication on public procurement corruption

A new publication, the Routledge Handbook of Public Procurement Corruption, edited by APLU Deputy Director, Prof Sope Williams, and GWU’s Prof Jessica Tillipman, was published in April 2024 providing a go-to reference for all who are interested in public procurement and countering corruption. This major work, with 33 chapters covering both thematic issues in public procurement corruption and country studies from around the globe provides one of the most comprehensive treatments of addressing corruption in public procurement.

Apart from Prof Williams, who contributed chapters on an overview of corruption and public procurement and on the position in Nigeria, other APLU researchers also contributed to the volume, with APLU Director, Prof Geo Quinot, authoring a chapter on corruption in COVID-19 procurement and APLU fellow, Prof George Nwangwu, writing on corruption in public–private partnership procurement. A number of African countries are also included among the country case studies in part III of the book.

More details can be found on the publisher’s website.

Prof Quinot delivers keynote address at the opening of international procurement programme

On 29 February 2024, APLU Director, Prof Geo Quinot, delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 12th edition of the International Master in Public Procurement Management (IMPPM) at the School of Economics, University of Tor Vergata, Rome.

The IMPPM is an innovative, multidisciplinary advanced degree programme in public procurement supported by several multilateral development banks such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, African Development Bank, and The Caribbean Development Bank.

Prof Quinot’s lecture focused on a shift in the animating feature of public procurement globally.

APLU hosts NRF International Conference on Public Procurement and Innovation in Africa

The African Procurement Law Unit organized two high-level engagements on behalf of the National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) to explore the linkage between public procurement and innovation in Africa. At a one-day colloquium (pictured above) followed by a two-day conference, held between 13 and 15 November at the NRF campus in Pretoria, leading international scholars engaged with local policymakers, practitioners and scholars in both the areas of public procurement and innovation to explore ways in which public spending can be leveraged to accelerate innovation on the continent.

Opening the conference, Mr. Imraan Patel (left), deputy director general for research development and support in the Department of Science and Innovation, noted the need to use the opportunity that the state’s enormous spend on public procurement presents to build our innovation ecosystem.

The South African government spends close to R1 trillion annually through public procurement. Scholars from multiple disciplines explored issues such as public procurement as an innovation policy tool, the transformation potential of public procurement for/of innovation, the state of current supply chains, mapping firm innovation patterns in South Africa, the role of technology in procurement of innovation, pursuing functional and relational public procurement paradigms, innovation for gender-responsive procurement, defense procurement as a driver of innovation and public procurement in open innovation approaches. Best practices across the world were considered in building an appreciation of a fit-for-purpose approach to linking public procurement and innovation in Africa.

All presentations at the conference van be viewed on the NRF YouTube channel.

Prof Williams represents APLU at PRAZ Annual Conference

APLU Deputy Director, Prof Sope Williams, represented APLU at the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe’s third annual conference in October 2023, held in Harare. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened the conference and launched the country’s new electronic Government Procurement System.

Prof Williams delivered a paper focusing on the imperative for gender responsive procurement in Zimbabwe.

Quinot participates in 5th Interdisciplinary Symposium on Public Procurement

On 28 to 29 September 2023, APLU Director, Prof Geo Quinot, participated in the 5th Interdisciplinary Symposium on Public Procurement in Cagliari, Italy. The Symposium was hosted by the University of Rome Tor Vergata in collaboration with Sardegna Richerche (Sardigna Chircas), Sardinian Agency for Technological Research and Development. At the Symposium, Prof Quinot spoke on preferences and political economy in public procurement.

For more information on the Symposium, see https://publicprocurementsymposium.it/2023

2023 Procurement Watch Report launched

For the third year in a row, Prof Geo Quinot of APLU assisted Corruption Watch to analyse reported data pertaining to deviations, contract extensions and debarment by national and provincial public entities in South Africa. The 2023 Procurement Watch Report on Procurement Risk Trends was released on 20 September 2023 during a webinar that discussed emerging trends. The Report covers the 2022/23 financial year and draws on statutory reports submitted to and subsequently published by South Africa’s National Treasury. The 2023 Report indicates significant increase in the number of deviations reported, but at the same time, a significant decrease in the value of deviations. This suggests that deviations are occurring more frequently, but for lower-value acquisitions. On expansions, the Report indicates that while the number of contract expansions during 2022/23 remained largely the same as in prior years, the value of extensions increased significantly from about R88 billion in 2020/21 to R157 billion in 2022/23.

For media coverage of the report and its release see the articles in the Daily Maverick, Business Day, Creamer Media, Engineering News and interviews on Business Day TV and SABC News.

APLU comments on South Africa’s Public Procurement Bill 2023

APLU and its associated researchers made several submissions to the Standing Committee on Finance (National Assembly) and the Select Committee on Finance (National Council of Provinces) of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa on the Public Procurement Bill 2023 that is currently being processed by Parliament.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance called for public input on the Bill to be submitted by 11 September 2023. It also held public hearings on the Bill on 12 and 13 September 2023.

APLU made a detailed submission to the Committee on the Bill, including proposals for revision of various sections in the Bill. Prof Geo Quinot appeared before the Committee on 13 September to talk to APLU’s submission. In his presentation, Quinot focused on three key objectives and three specific aspects of the text of the Bill. On objectives, Quinot noted the need to

  • ensure consolidation of procurement law under the Bill and called for construction procurement to be fully and exclusively regulated under the Bill and for limited secondary instruments to be issued under the Bill;
  • focus specifically on section 217 of the Constitution as the explicit point of departure of the Bill; and
  • create a clear, unambiguous framework for development through procurement in the Bill, including the use of procurement for transformation and ensuring value for money in procurement.

Quinot highlighted the following three aspects of the text of the Bill that required more attention:

  • Section 2: The current formulation of the objects of the Bill in section 2 is not clearly aligned to section 217 of the Constitution. Since the Constitution, and particularly section 217, is the foundation of this Bill, the objects clause should clearly state the Bill’s objects in terms of the principles set out in section 217. It is furthermore inappropriate to force the objects of the Bill through the lens of uniform treasury norms and standards as provided for in section 216 of the Constitution. This approach does not recognise the distinction made by the Constitution between treasury norms and standards under section 216 and procurement regulation under section 217.
  • The framework for regulating procurement operations under sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 18 and 58 is not clear enough. There are many uncertainties regarding who must do what and who can intervene in what aspect and to what extent under these provisions. Roles and responsibilities must be much more clearly and with more precision defined. In this respect, procurement institutions should be given more discretion to design operational systems appropriate within their context subject to appropriate regulatory guardrails. This requires setting out the broad contours of matters such as procurement procedures in the Bill and regulations, but allowing institutions to flesh those procedures out in a context-appropriate manner without unduly hampering discretion.
  • Section 17: The Bill is not sufficiently clear on the transformational dimension of procurement, including preferential procurement. The current wording leaves too many questions that may simply again lead to litigation. There is a need to tighten this provision so that it clearly states that the Minister of Finance has the power to prescribe the preferential procurement policy to be followed, in order to achieve consistency at a policy level on how preferential procurement must be approached, and leaving only implementation to procuring institutions.

APLU’s full submission can be accessed at this link. Prof Quinot’s oral submissions to the Committee can be viewed at this link.

In a second submission, APLU outlined the output of the national conversation on public procurement reform that it facilitated since February 2023. This project involved convening all stakeholders in public procurement in South Africa to discuss the future of South African public procurement in a host of in-person workshops and offline workstreams. The full submission can be accessed at this link. More details on this project, are available at this link.

APLU associated researcher, Prof Annamaria la Chimia, director of the Public Procurement Research Group at the University of Nottingham in the UK, also made independent submissions to the Parliamentary Committee on the Bill. In her submission as well as during her appearance before the Committee on 12 September, Prof La Chimia placed specific emphasis on gender-responsive procurement and what aspects of the Bill should be refined in order to promote greater participation by women in public procurement in South Africa.

Prof La Chimia’s oral submissions can be viewed at this link.

The National Council of Province’s Select Committee on Finance called for public input on the Bill to be submitted by 22 February 2024, followed by public hearings on 23 February. APLU again made submissions to the committee, highlighting remaining concerns. These focused on potential continuation of the fragmentation of South African procurement law, the need to anchor the Bill squarely in the principles of section 217(1) of the Constitution, the compatibility of the Bill with South Africa’s public finance paradigm and system of co-operative government between the three levels of government and concerns around capacity and professionalisation. The full written submission can be viewed at this link and the oral submission can be viewed at this link.