Moving towards a value-added procurement process in the medical laboratory in Africa
Keywords:procurement process, tender, bid, laboratory reagents, laboratory consumables, laboratory equipment
Procurement processes are guided by rules and policy frameworks to ensure transparency and efficiency, and to avoid preferential treatment of any bidders. The process is usually managed by three committees, the bid specification (BSC), bid evaluation (BEC), and bid adjudication (BAC) committees, each of which has clearly defined roles. Personnel involved have diverse skills and expertise, which include legal, financial, and supply chain management.
Due to the scarcity of resources, many developing countries rely on donated equipment to address their healthcare needs. However, ill-defined donation practices culminate in these goods becoming a burden to the recipients. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed donation guidelines to be considered by both the donor and recipient.
During a state of disaster, as was seen with the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world made large sums of funds available for securing resources necessary to sustain lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, crisis situations provide fertile ground for inefficiency and corruption. Inexperienced officers often fall prey to overpriced supplies that may be of inferior quality. Governments with ample resources, out of panic, procure beyond what is necessary, overlooking the needs of low-income states.
This manuscript reports on the procurement process in resource-scarce settings, challenges associated with donated equipment, and emergency procurement practices experienced amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
A well-managed procurement process is needed to enable medical laboratories to carry out their crucial role in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of disease. In Africa, there is a need for procurement systems to be accountable, transparent, effective, and efficient. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that the traditional route of procurement, though slow-paced, has checks and balances that limit the misuse of resources and power.