Developing an ideal turn around time – a case of the Zambia public procurement authority

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Maposa, Eunice
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University of Zambia
This study is aimed at developing processes that could mitigate bottlenecks and develop ideal lead times for the public sector procurement system. This was a cross-sectional functional pragmatic study design employing a concurrent mixed methods design. Thirty five participants from six public procurement entities (Government Ministries and quasi-Government departments) were enlisted using expert availability sampling. A short survey questionnaire and key informant interviews were employed. Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS and qualitative data was analysed using content analysis with the help of N VIVO software. The phases with the most delays where those which were those whose lead times were unspecified in the Act and these included the evaluation phase, which took 5 to 10 weeks, the Ministry Procurement Committee approving of order/contract phase which took 4 – 8 weeks, Clearance of the contract by the Ministry of Justice which took 2 to 12 weeks and the signing of the contract which took 3 to 30 days. The ideal mean lead times were as follows: Tender Floatation 3.4 days, Tender closing/ Bid opening 1 day, Evaluation 7 days, Ministry Procurement Committee approval of order/contract 6 days, Tender award notification 2 days, Clearance of the Contract by the Ministry of Justice less than 13weeks and signing of contract less than 13 days following clearance by the Ministry of Justice. The reasons for delay were multifarious and the following were key, failure to start the procurement process on time due to end users failing to provide technical specifications on time, complex scope of work or terms of reference, mental models in people, unwritten policy, or Act and delay in contract negotiations if there are any negotiations to be made. The findings revealed undue delays in the procurement process. There is need to apply the lead times proposed in this study. This study suggests that special attention paid to factors identified in this study will help industry practitioners in minimising the risk of delays in projects. Some of the causes could have been mitigated with extensive and careful planning and control processes while some might require a systematic approach to the issues. There is need for effective Monitoring of the procurement process/workflows by supervisors and heads of Procurement Units in order to speed up the process of procuring of goods, works, and services in order to improve on service delivery. Key words: Ideal, Turn-Around Time, Zambia, Public, Procurement
Public procurement --Zambia , Government purchasing.