– By Upasna Acharya
Ms. Acharya is Assistant Professor at Center for Research and Development, King’s College.
Public Procurement in Practice
Public procurement is one of the tools that helps governments achieve economic development and social transformation goals. The procurement system, in general, has significant impact on country’s economy and occupies substantial share in its GDP. According to World Bank (2016), the procurement market often makes up 10 to 15 per cent of the GDP of developed countries and up to 30 to 40 per cent of the economies of the least developed countries (LDCs). Despite the significant and continuous contribution to the economy, the procurement system and its governing policies, seems to neglect the social dimension, especially in developing part of the world, where procurement is confined only to the economic role of procuring goods, services or labor assignments (Djan, 2015).
The public procurement policies (PPP), worldwide, is based on ‘value for money’, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. These are integral elements of public procurement system and have been analyzed rigorously from governance perspective. However, gender, though an important pillar for sustainable and equitable development, has not gained much attention in the domain of public procurement. One of basic reasons could be the globally accepted, Sustainable Development Goal Five (SDG 5), which focuses on gender equality, does not treat public procurement as a critical public policy mechanism to achieve this goal. Moreover, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW) which recognizes the rights of women to enter into private contracts, is also silent on the connection between government contracts, gender and women’s wellbeing (Nyeck , 2017)
Public Procurement and Gender Issues– Do they relate?
Bearing in mind that, gender perspectives are relevant to all sectors of the society, it is imperative to understand what role does gender pattern play in the effectiveness of public procurement system. Various studies carried out by International Trade Centre (ITC), World Bank (WB) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), suggest a direct linkage between women owned business and improved female labor participation rate. Women-owned enterprises securing government contracts are expected to grow higher and contribute to increased GDP growth and better female employment opportunities as compared to those owned by their male counterparts (World Bank, 2016). As stated by Arancha Gonzalez,
the executive director of ITC, women entrepreneurs tend to reinvest up to 90% of their earnings for the benefit of their families and communities, which links inclusive economic growth directly to development (ITC, 2014). Greater procurement for women-owned enterprises, thus, provides a springboard for advancements in women’s economic inclusion and labor market participation.
Owing to the advantages that gender smart procurement can reap, the European Union (EU) has made a significant headway in promoting gender sensitive and responsive trade with creative strategies such as the use of “set-asides” or e-procurement and SME preferential procurement (The Royal Institiute of International Affairs, 2017). Wherein, the public procurement system in LDCs is yet to create a level playing field and integrate gender dimension in its avenue. The PPP, in most developing countries, has generally tended to either exclude women or minimize the impact that policies will have on them. Although, women own approximately 40 per cent of SMEs in developing countries, it is estimated that they win less than 1 per cent of government contracts (Kirton, 2013). In the absence of comprehensive instrument that addresses gender equality in public procurement from the perspectives of women’s entrepreneurship and women’s utilization of public works, goods and services, the gendered dynamics within the supply and demand sides of public procurement has not been catered adequately in developing countries (Nyeck , 2017).
Public Procurement and Gender Mainstreaming in Nepal
Gender equality, a key theme highlighted in Nepal’s Three-Year Plan (FY2014-FY2016) has accounted for a steady increase in the share of gender allocations in the national budget from just 11 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2014-15 (Government of Nepal (GoN), 2014). Nepal has also made significant progress through gender responsive policies that allows greater participation of women in decision-making and employment. Roughly 30 percent of the country’s Constituent Assembly members are now women and there are special provisions for ensuring women’s entry into civil services and public sector institutions including the police and army (Anwar & Esplen, 2015). In order to increase women’s labor force participation, tax exemptions have also been given to the private sector for hiring more female employees. Despite all the progressive measure that have been initiated, a relative review of national public procurement laws and policies’ document, reveals that, women are not integrated as an explicit category into national procurement frameworks in Nepal, not even via preferential clauses. The Public Procurement Act (2007) and its amendment has no scope for gender mainstreaming, neither does it specify plans to target women’s empowerment through public procurement. It is surprising that, no attempt so far has been made to systematically and consistently design public procurement policies in order to increase the access of women business owners in the supply chain market. Gender Responsive Budget is one of the ways that the Nepal Government has employed while designing Gender Based Projects in Nepal.
Amount (NPR in Billion)
|Fiscal Year||Gender Budget Responsiveness|
|Directly Responsive-1||Indirectly Responsive- 2||Gender Neutral- 3||Total|
In the table above, we can see the trend of Nepali Budget of five years and that every year Nepal Government has allocated budget for the Gender Responsiveness where the government has few programs with direct responsiveness from females and other categories. In last fiscal year. The government had 23.1% of the national budget, which was supposed to be directly gender responsive that amounts to Rs. 242.32 Billion but the execution of the programs would be a great concern to look at.
How does it look beyond?
Public procurement greatly affects the process of achieving gender equality leading to socio-economic welfare. For this very reason, it is imperative that in the process of a specific procurement, gender perspective be taken into account from its initial planning until the conclusion of the contract. Open contracting (OC), thus, can be a useful platform for implementing gender smart procurement system. The open contracting approach not only seeks disclosure of the procurement process right from the planning phase, to the tender and award of the contract, but also monitors and evaluates the implementation of the gender based projects. Furthermore, the OC data can help identify and address issues affecting access and participation of women in public procurement.
Anwar, S., & Esplen, E. (2015, November 30). Taking a strategic approach to gender-responsive financing. devex.
Djan, A. (2015). Public Procurement and Gender Equality : Its Impact on Women in the Security Sector In Serbia. Belgrade: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy.
Government of Nepal (GoN). (2014). Budget Speech of Fiscal Year 2014/15. Kathmandu: Ministry of Finance (MoF), Government of Nepal.
International Trade Centre (ITC). (2014). Empowering Women through Public Procurement. . Geneva, Switzerland: ITC.
Kirton, M. R. (2013). Gender, Trade and Public Procurement Policy. London: Comonwealth Secretariat.
Nyeck , S. N. (2017, Nov 14). Why does Gender Equality Matter to Public Procurement? An African perspective. International Learning Lab on Public Procurement.
The Royal Institiute of International Affairs. (2017). Gender-smart Procurement-Policies for Driving Change. London: Chatham House, The Royal Institiute of International Affairs.
World Bank (WB). (2016). Benchmarking Public Procurement 2016: Assessing Public Procurement System in 77 Economies. Washington DC: World Bank.