Dr Pedro Telles of Swansea University has been conducting a series of interviews, the Public Procurement Podcasts (PPP), supported by the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Awards, where he interviews leading academics, researchers and graduates who have an interesting viewpoint on aspects of public sector procurement. In his most recent podcasts he talks to Ana Cristina Calderon Ramirez from the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance on the regulation of public procurement in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ana and two colleagues (as part of her PhD) compiled a paper for the International Public Procurement Conference 7, held in Bali in August 2016, looking at the relationships between and the effects of improvements in public procurement in their region, Latin America and the Caribbean. They were interested particularly in procurement reform and historical trends, including improvements in regulatory frameworks, the introduction of electronic government procurement tools, and the creation of specialised regulatory and monitoring procurement entities. What they ended up with was “… totally a team effort that combined policy and research.”
She explains that in the Latin American/Caribbean region, it has been more than 20 years since public procurement reform began, and that since then, great strides have been made in the modernisation and reform of the public procurement systems. They felt that while public procurement reform in the region has been analysed in terms of the impetus of the reforms, and the constraints affecting them, with partial evaluation carried out in some countries, little has been done to identify and analyse the outcomes of these reforms and the impact they have had on the perception of public sector performance.
She explains: “… with this paper we wanted to address those gaps in knowledge by providing a conceptual framework for understanding the context under which public procurement reforms have been carried out and examining what we have called the first generation public procurement reform elements and the impact of those elements on public sector performance.”
Those reforms cover: the improvement in regulatory systems, electronic procurement and monitoring entities. She talks about the four main things that she believes they have achieved:
– they were able to provide a framework to link public procurement with public sector literature and policy … she feels public procurement reforms are treated as part of larger reforms, public financial management reforms or anti-corruption and transparency reforms, but have not been treated as a field in their own right. Now, it is more likely it will have its own agenda.
– they have attempted to clarify the effects of the reforms in both Latin America and the Caribbean. Most policy literature covers Latin America but not the Caribbean, so they have produced a more complete dataset, and they have clarified what was first and second generation reforms and the effects they have on other important sectors.
– they have demonstrated that, even though there is little public procurement data (and lack of data has been an issue for many years), what they have got is real data, collected by agencies, international development organisations and the countries themselves.
– they have combined policy with the academic world, she explains that: “for the people who are listening to the podcast, I want to let you know that we have a big network on government procurement in the region that is called the INGP and we have so many conferences as part of that network and so much training, and there we have heard so many people telling us that the research is very hard to understand and other papers are very light. So we wanted to combine something that both academics and policymakers could enjoy and use what we wrote and, more importantly, what we found.”
The discussion goes on to examine the findings, and Ana makes it clear that the dataset used is for 2007 to 2013. What is interesting, but maybe not surprising, is that where a procurement agency had been created, they saw the largest impact on the development of public procurement systems between those years. You read the full discussion and the details of the findings on the public procurement podcast website.