As the latest step in the Caribbean Development Bank’s efforts to help Caribbean governments get better value for money, the bank has launched a new phase of its public procurement reform programme with a workshop in the Virgin Islands.

“Better expenditure management provides a foundation for building stronger and more inclusive economies,” CDB Head of Procurement Douglas Fraser said. “This can be achieved through robust public procurement that provides transparency and accountability by promoting civil society participation, stimulating private sector growth and investment, and encouraging wider improvements in governance.”

The CDB has held procurement workshops in the VI before, most recently in September and October of 2018. That session focused on educating public officers about general procurement principles, planning, red flags and ethics, and generally helping ensure that governments get good value for money, according to CDB representatives in the territory at the time.

That workshop came on the heels of two previous CDB opportunities in 2018: an August workshop for businesses interested in competing for public contracts and a procurement development session for public officers in April 2018.

This new stage of the procurement programme, launched this month and expected to last until mid-2024, will involve helping countries with completing outstanding legal and regulatory reforms, forming dedicated procurement institutions, developing standard procurement documents, and establishing electronic procurement systems, the bank stated.

According to a CDB spokeswoman, the phase kicked off with a six-day, 47-participant workshop in the VI from March 21-30. It focused on “training of procurement practitioners throughout the public service, including state-owned enterprises,” in concordance with the newly passed Public Procurement Act, she added.

Separate tailored sessions were provided to Cabinet, suppliers, the deputy governor and senior managers including permanent secretaries, and others, with a total of 150 people trained across all of the sessions, according to the spokeswoman.

Before the procurement reform started in 2018, CDB as sessments found that few countries had dedicated procurement, legal or regulatory frameworks, the press release stated. In addition, the bank added, existing systems relied on “outdated” financial and administration acts.

“Often appropriate institutional structures were not in place to undertake and oversee procurement and almost none of the public servants were dedicated to procurement, whilst those involved in procurement lacked suitable qualifications,” the bank wrote.

The bank has reason to be invested in procurement in the VI: It launched a $65.3 million reconstruction and rehabilitation loan project in the territory in April 2018, which is designed to fund various infrastructure efforts and capital projects, including the reconstruction of the new West End ferry terminal; the construction of a new Department of Disaster Management building; and the rehabilitation of schools.

Also in the past four years, the bank embarked on legal and regulatory reform in Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Dominica, Montserrat and St. Kitts and Nevis.

“Typically, public procurement can account for more than 10 to 15 percent of a country’s gross domestic product, but the amount can be considerably higher for small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean, where $8 to $11 billion is spent every year on public procurement,” the bank wrote. “Consequently, there is significant need for CDB to support its borrowing member countries’ development objectives in this area.”

OECS states

The CDB added that it has also advocated for all of the Organisation for Eastern Caribbean States members to join and participate in the Inter-American Government Procurement Network to share technical knowledge and best practices, with the result that “for the first time all the OECS procurement leads had a venue to meet and build technical relationships,” the bank stated.