The first conference focusing on the legal control of government purchasing in Africa was held from 24 – 25 October 2011 in Stellenbosch. Themed Public Procurement Regulation in Africa, the conference focused on legal issues pertaining to public procurement, corruption, the use of procurement to promote social policies as well as reform of African procurement regulation. The conference was the culmination of a groundbreaking three-year research project (2009-2011) into public procurement law in Africa funded by the British Academy and led by researchers at SU and the PPRG at University of Nottingham with collaborating researchers from across Africa. The PPRG at Nottingham is regarded as one of the foremost centres of public procurement law in the world.
Several experts on this topic presented at the conference, including Prof. Gavin Woods (Professor in Public Finance and Director of the Centre for Anti-corruption Education and Research in the School of Public Leadership at SU) and Prof Sue Arrowsmith, the Achilles Professor of Public Procurement Law and Policy and Director of the Public Procurement Research Group at the University of Nottingham, as keynote speakers.
Two recurring themes that emerged during the conference were the need to increase capacity in public procurement regulation on the continent and the need for African systems to engage with each other in seeking solutions for common problems that are quite often particular to the African context. Many speakers noted the failure of most international regulatory regimes to cater for these concerns. In this regard Mr Sacheedanand Tahalooa of the Procurement Policy Office in Mauritius noted that preferential procurement, the practice in terms of which certain suppliers, such as local industries, small businesses or disadvantaged groups are given preference in state purchasing, is the norm in Africa with most if not all African systems formally providing for this practice in their procurement laws, while most international instruments on public procurement regulation do not allow for this practice. Similarly, Prof Geo Quinot of Stellenbosch University noted in a presentation on supplier remedies that the international instruments which have influenced public procurement laws in Africa often contain rules that are inappropriate for the African context, often providing for far too extensive avenues to challenge procurement decisions that most African systems can afford. He noted that, “the quest remains for models of appropriate supplier review mechanisms in the African procurement systems under review. However, whether it will ever be possible to reconcile the twin problems of a perceived lack of accountability and transparency in public procurement on the one hand and extreme resource constraints on the other by means of a system of supplier remedies in African systems is highly doubtful. Perhaps the reality is that an uncomfortable choice will have to be made between these problems and a remedies regime designed in light of that choice.”
The full programme of the conference is available here>>