First workshop on a national conversation on procurement reform in South Africa

The African Procurement Law Unit (APLU) initiated a national conversation on public procurement reform in South Africa during a two-day gathering in Johannesburg from 27 to 28 February 2023.

The initiative is a response to the call of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture which noted that “any serious attempt to address the problems which beset public procurement must go well beyond state capture … the process of reform requires a coherent and comprehensive plan of action which needs to bring the public and private sectors together in a joint initiative to restore proper standards and discipline within the procurement system.”

The event drew over 120 delegates from the South African public procurement/supply chain management community to discuss all aspects of public procurement with the aim of framing a vision for the future of public procurement in South Africa. Delegates came from all levels of government, including key national departments such as Treasury; Justice and Constitutional Development; Public Works and Infrastructure; Trade, Industry and Competition and Defence as well as from public bodies such as the NRF; Public Service Commission; SARS; Competition Commission and SANRAL. Suppliers to the government as well as supplier organisations such as Consulting Engineers South Africa and the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa were present. Participating NGOs included Corruption Watch; the Legal Resources Centre; Amabhungane; Open Ownership, OUTA and the Public Service Accountability Monitor as well as some of South Africa’s leading procurement academics and lawyers.

The topics discussed ranged from the forthcoming public procurement legislation for South Africa, how best to deal with the restriction of poor performing and corrupt suppliers to government, the liability of public officials for procurement failures, the need for the state to buy local goods in order to support local industrial development, how to accelerate transformation via public procurement practices, increased use of technology to improve efficiencies in procurement and to reduce abuse and how best to deal with challenges to tender awards.

Prof Geo Quinot, APLU director and professor of law at SU, noted in his opening remarks that “public procurement is the backbone of service delivery in our country, of making real the aspirations of our constitution, of driving economic development. By coming together, all of us can strengthen that backbone to the benefit of everyone who live in our country.” Click here to listen to the full opening remarks.

The issues raised during the plenary engagements were categorised under five themes and discussed in more detail by smaller working groups. The themes are institutional arrangements; procurement integrity; targeted procurement; procedures & efficiency; and dispute resolution. The South African public procurement community intends to contribute to the ongoing reforms of the public procurement system and following the two-day workshop, the national conversation continues by way of workstreams where delegates will continue to explore the themes raised in the working groups.  For each theme, an issue paper will be collaboratively developed to set out inter alia the nature of the issue, its role in the procurement system, possible ways in which it could be regulated, suggested operating procedures and standard documents, and the skills required to manage the issue. The issue papers will include case studies, from South Africa and beyond, on how the issue has been successfully addressed. These issue papers will be discussed at further gatherings, including another national workshop in June. The outcomes can feed into the public consultation processes that will accompany new procurement legislation, and the crafting of regulations and other implementation instruments under a new procurement statute, once passed. Generally, the initiative aims to assist all stakeholders in improving procurement practice – from the regulators tasked with designing and overseeing the procurement system; to the leadership of organs of state in using procurement as a strategic tool; to procurement officials in their daily acquisition functions; to businesses wanting to supply goods and services to the state.

The South African procurement community believes that by bringing together the experiences of officials awarding tenders, of enterprises selling to the state, of regulators monitoring the spending of public money, of NGOs focusing on the impact of procurement on civil society and of academics researching and training on all aspects of public procurement, the South African society can collaboratively construct a fit-for-purpose procurement system that can deliver best value for money. 

Listen to Prof Quinot and Prof Williams’ concluding remarks at the workshop.

UNCITRAL Days in Africa

UNCITRAL Days are a series of events co-organised with institutions of higher learning to raise awareness of the work of UNCITRAL amongst the next generations of legal thinkers and policymakers, thereby furthering its efforts to promote the progressive harmonization and modernization of international trade and commercial law.

The theme of the 2022 UNCITRAL Days in Africa was “Modernization and harmonization of international commercial law framework in the AfCFTA context”.

On 3 November 2022 from 9:00 – 12:30 (UTC+2), the African Procurement Law Unit at Stellenbosch University co-hosted with UNCITRAL an UNCITRAL Africa Day workshop focusing on the public procurement dimension of trade law harmonization in the AfCFTA context.

For more details, including recordings of the presentations, click on the following link.

Seminar: Advancing women’s rights through public infrastructure procurement

Despite vast progress in the field of women’s rights, women still experience extreme discrimination in the form of gender pay gaps in workplaces, gender-based violence and harassment and time poverty due to unpaid domestic work. Women in rural areas travel long distances to access fuel and water, they suffer from air pollution caused by heating for the purpose of cooking and cleaning and are in danger based on a lack of lighting at public transport areas and outside public bathrooms. The latter indicates that infrastructure in South Africa does not adequately provide for the needs for women.

Public infrastructure is acquired by way of public procurement, which constitutes approximately 22% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With infrastructure being the bedrock of any country, the procurement of infrastructure holds tremendous economic significance. For the last two to three
decades, procurement has been leveraged to advance many social objectives, including the advancement of women-owned businesses. However, this topic in particular has seen slow development the world over.

This seminar will be based on an upcoming collaborative paper between the academy and practice in the form of UNISA, George Washington University International and Comparative Law Studies and International Budget Partnership South Africa where solutions to advancing women’s rights in infrastructure procurement will be considered. Sanitation access in South Africa’s informal
settlements will be explored as a case for gender-inclusive procurement.

Workshop on Public Procurement Authorities

On 7 April 2022, APLU, in collaboration with Crown Agents and the Open Contracting Partnership, hoste an open online workshop to discuss one of the recommendations on public procurement reform in South Africa, put forward by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (the Zondo Commission), viz. the creation of a Public Procurement Anti-Corruption Agency.

In brief, the Commission recommended:

“In the view of the Commission and for the reasons which follow, the appropriate starting point for any scheme of reform must include the establishment of a single, multi-functional, properly resourced and independent anti-corruption authority with a mandate to confront the abuses inherent in the present system. That authority could be called the Anti-Corruption Authority or Agency of SA South Africa (ACASA).”

Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture Report Part 1 (2022) par 664

This recommendation follows the proposal put forward in the draft Public Procurement Bill, published in 2020, for the creation of a Public Procurement Regulator.

Many other countries on the African continent and beyond have created public procurement authorities of various types. These provide rich experiences for South Africa to look at in considering the creation of a procurement authority of some sort.

This workshop hosted leaders from existing procurement authorities in Kenya, Ghana and Chile to share their experiences in setting up and running such entities. It will also create an opportunity for discussing the proposals put forward for creating such an entity in South Africa. More than 200 participants joined the workshop.

Information on the speakers, presentations and recordings of the sessions can be accessed here.

New study on gender equity in public procurement in South Africa published

A major research study by APLU’s Prof Sope Williams-Elegbe on equity and inclusion of women-owned businesses in public procurement in South Africa has been published by the Open Contracting Partnership.

Equity report coverThe summary of the report states:

“South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed to setting aside 40% of all government procurement for women-owned businesses (WOB). This report analyses the barriers and the opportunities for WOBs in the South African post-Covid-19 procurement system. In researching the report, we interviewed WOBs, procurement and supply chain managers, regulators, and other stakeholders, and we reviewed the main academic and policy literature on the inclusion of WOBs in public procurement in South Africa and beyond. The report also describes the legal and policy framework for preferential treatment in public procurement in South Africa, barriers to advocacy, and lessons from the Black Economic Empowerment framework, and it makes recommendations aimed at boosting WOBs’ participation in public procurement in South Africa.

The misalignment between South Africa’s economic, gender, and procurement policies and issues related to the focus on “black women” in the preferential procurement legislation is one of the policy and legal barriers. However, institutional and cultural barriers pose more of an obstacle to women’s participation in procurement. Public agencies are reticent to prioritise WOBs in the absence of an explicit mandate to do so and are reluctant to favour new market entrants and small, medium, and micro-enterprises (SMMEs).

Other barriers include the gendered impact of procurement corruption, the gendered impact of Covid-19, which has terminated public contracts in sectors serviced by WOBs, high rates of gender-based violence, and the complexity and opacity of the procurement process. In addition, WOBs in South Africa face financial limitations, inadequate contractor development initiatives, and an inability of the public sector to identify WOBs in relevant sectors.”

The report makes a number of key recommendations on enhancing woman-owned business’ participation in public procurement in South Africa:

  1. The South African government should create a comprehensive policy and regulations to implement gender-responsive procurement.
  2. The government should incorporate an inclusive definition of WOBs covering all women, in line with the International Organization for Standardization’s International Workshop Agreement definition.
  3. The government should implement measures to address transparency, complexity, capacity, and accessibility concerns.
  4. South African government entities should adopt a more integrated and long-term approach to the support and development of WOBs, including training for business owners and employees focused on “soft” skills, such as personal initiative training.
  5. South Africa needs an advocacy and awareness campaign to promote public understanding of the benefits of gender-inclusive procurement.

The report can be accessed on the Open Contracting Partnership website.


Public Procurement: Global Revolutions XI dates set for 2022 and call for papers out

The Public Procurement Research Group (PPRG) at the University of Nottingham will in 2022 again host the major international conference on public procurement law: Public Procurement: Global Revolutions XI. The dates for the conference, that will take place in person in Nottingham, have been set for 13-14 June 2022.


As in the past, APLU will support the PPRG in this major international event.

The call for papers has been published and can be accessed at this link.

Visit the conference website at for more information and updates.

New book focusing on public procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic

Covid19 Book Cover 2021Hart Publishing published the title Public Procurement Regulation in (a) Crisis? Global Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic in November 2021. The book was edited by Sue Arrowsmith, Luke RA Butler, Annamaria La Chimia and Christopher Yukins.

The book provides the first systematic analysis of global public procurement regulation and policy during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through both thematic chapters and national case studies, the book:
– explores the adequacy of traditional legal frameworks for emergency procurement;
– examines how governments and international organisations have responded specifically to the pandemic; and
– considers how the experience of the pandemic and the political impetus for reform might be leveraged to improve public procurement more broadly.

Public procurement has been critical in delivering vital frontline public services both in the health sector and elsewhere, with procurement of ventilators, protective equipment and new hospitals all hitting the headlines. At the same time, procurers have faced the challenge of adjusting existing contracts to a new reality where, for example, some contracted services can no longer operate. Further, efficient and effective procurement will be an essential, and not a luxury, in the economic recovery.

With case studies on Italy, the UK, the USA, India, Singapore, Africa, Latin America and China, the book brings together the world’s leading academics and practitioners from across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa to examine these issues, providing an essential resource for policy makers, legislators, international organisations and academics.

Several APLU researchers contributed to the work, including chapters focusing on the experience in Italy by APLU Fellow, Annamaria La Chimia and in Africa by APLU directors and fellow, Geo Quinot, Sope Williams-Elegbe and Kingsley Udeh.

The book can be ordered from the publisher’s website at this link.

Procuring of cloud computing in the public sector

Worldwide there has been an increase in the use of cloud-based computing solutions within the public sector. The International Data Corporation reports that the global public cloud services market grew by 24% in 2020. In South Africa, the recently published draft national policy on data and cloud noted the importance of harnessing the “social potential of data and cloud computing” and put forward a range of policy proposals towards increased adoption of public cloud solutions.

However, it is also widely recognized that a skills gap can be a significant barrier to the effective adoption of cloud-based solutions in the public sector. This skills gap starts with the procurement of cloud services. In a 2019 study conducted by Deloitte in the Australian context, it found that a skills gap and procurement were two major barriers to adopting the use of public cloud by government agencies.

With these considerations in mind, the African Procurement Law Unit (APLU), in collaboration with the School for Data Science and Computational ​​Thinking at Stellenbosch University and Amazon Web Services, convened a roundtable discussion on building capacity in the South African public sector for the procurement of cloud computing. The roundtable, which took place on 8 July 2021, was exploratory in nature. The purpose was to start a conversation between all relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector about how public sector procurement capacity can be developed and strengthened to effectively procure cloud-based solutions. Participants in the roundtable included academics across a range of disciplines and institutions, public sector officials from government departments and public entities, suppliers and consultants.

A recording of the discussion can be found at this link and the presentations can be downloaded here.

It is anticipated that a smaller working group will take the proposals put forward during the discussion forward and convene a second roundtable to put forward concrete proposals to support increased procurement of cloud computing in South Africa.

Public Procurement Regulation in Africa: Development in Uncertain Times

edited by Geo Quinot & Sope Williams-Elegbe

9780639010601_1 Public Procurement Regulation 2020Public procurement law is one of the fastest growing areas of law globally. In recent years, the role of public procurement in supporting development has been highlighted, becoming a major theme of research, and included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet, despite it being estimated that on average about 15% of the GDP of Sub-Saharan African countries is expended on public procurement, there is limited research on public procurement and the role of law in Africa.  APLU’s 2020 publication released by LexisNexis, Public Procurement Regulation in Africa: Development in Uncertain Times aims to address this gap in the literature.

Transcending academic legalese and philosophical discourse, the title puts forward ideas on arresting procurement maladies and will also be useful for administrative, law enforcement functionaries, consultants, academics, and students interested in expanding their procurement knowledge while contributing meaningfully to African procurement reform.

In her foreword, Professor Thuli Madonsela, former Public Protector of South Africa, says, “Procurement has become the Achilles’ heel of state affairs in South Africa and other parts of the African continent. Yet properly handled, procurement can contribute meaningfully towards good governance and state delivery on sustainable development goals and the advancement of social justice and related human rights.”

Editors Geo Quinot and Sope William-Elegbe, both professors of law at Stellenbosch University and co-directors of the African Procurement Law Unit, bring together a number of essays from academics and professionals working in public procurement law, focusing on public procurement regulation in Africa aimed at development in uncertain times.

Working on a social compact for economic recovery, growth and transformation needs to be the focus for both the private and public sector, with compliant procurement playing a pivotal role in this process. Understanding and identifying the many fault lines that exist to allow for procurement irregularities, will serve to red flag fraud and corruption and increase efficiencies and compliance with the law. As the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown, there has never been a more urgent time to engage with these issues.


To order the book, click on this link.

Prof La Chimia appointed Director of the Nottingham Public Procurement Research Group

APLU is proud that Professor Annamaria la Chimia, professor in law and development at the School of Law at the University of Nottingham and a research fellow of APLU has been appointed as the new director of the Public Procurement Research Group (PPRG) at the University of Nottingham from 1 August 2020.

La Chimia visa photoProf La Chimia succeeds Prof Sue Arrowsmith QC (Hon), who established the PPRG more than 20 years ago in Nottingham. The PPRG is a global leader in research and teaching on public procurement regulation and APLU has enjoyed a close working relationship with the PPRG since its inception in 2012. This relationship was further formalised when Prof La Chimia was appointed as a research fellow with APLU under the auspices of the Department of Mercantile Law at Stellenbosch University in 2019.

Prof La Chimia read Law at the University of Rome La Sapienza, completed an LLM in International Economic Law (2002) and a PhD (2006) at the School of Law at University of Nottingham. She joined the School of Law at the University of Nottingham as a lecturer in 2006, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014 and to Professor in 2019. She heads the Humanitarian and Development Procurement Unit and is co-leader of the Procurement and Human Rights Unit of the PPRG. She is a founding member of the European Association on Public Private Partnership (EAPPP), a member of the Transatlantic Food Assistance Dialogue (TAFAD) and until 2018 was member of the steering Committee of the Learning Lab on Procurement and Human Rights. Prof La Chimia is currently Co-Investigator for the Rising from the Depths project, a two-million pound project funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) through the Arts and Humanities Research Council Network Plus scheme, which focuses on utilising marine cultural heritage in East Africa to help develop sustainable social, economic and cultural benefits.