SMALL island states must balance ensuring that procurement processes are fair and transparent with ensuring that the burden of procurement processes do not become more difficult than the desired outcome of gaining the required commodity and service at a fair price, required quality and within an appropriate timeframe to be effective and impactful. COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass on existing vulnerabilities and challenges around procurement globally and we have embraced new partners, systems and tools to respond. In this piece, we take a look back at the OECS procurement journey.
The OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (PPS) is a globally recognised pooled procurement and supply chain service for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies that has served OECS Member States for over 30 years, and has continued to develop processes that ensure quality of products and rigor of procurement. Quality processes include, prequalification of manufacturers and suppliers, risk-based post-market surveillance of medicines including testing of key medicines based on this risk-based system. This system ensures reporting of quality issues and adverse events. The introduction of the ePPSS public online electronic procurement platform in 2014 has allowed for a smoother and more transparent process around tendering and bid submission while supporting the robust evaluation of the tenders committee. The Tenders Committee is made up of representatives of participating Member States, and after Member States thoroughly review the quality of previously awarded products, they consider all the information (including quality and price) in making awards for the next 2-year cycle.
The OECS Commission has been continuously improving general procurement procedures both in terms of improving standards and policies and ensuring value to Member States. This has enabled the Commission to receive and continue to seek accreditation as a Grant Agent from relevant donor agencies. The increased emphasis on quality and standards are all with the aim to improve our management of the supply chain, improve agility, value-added and impact of OECS Commission and regional pooled procurement mechanisms.
Following the devastating 2017 hurricane season, long held plans to expand pooled procurement in the OECS to other relevant areas were highlighted, including the need for relief supplies and emergency regional transport mechanisms. The situation also highlighted the need for procurement and supply chain systems to be agile in emergencies leading to the development of emergency procurement procedures for the Commission. The extreme weather events also highlighted the issues around sustainable procurement which we must embrace as a region vulnerable to the effects of the degradation of the environment and Climate Change. To this end the OECS Commission is partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP on mainstreaming sustainable public procurement
Related to Climate Change, emerging and re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks in the region and globally directed additional focus on emergency procurement and supply chain management in infectious disease outbreaks through training provided to the Commission and some Member States by USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) on Emergency Supply Preparedness in Infectious Disease as well as the World Bank supported “OECS Regional Health Project” the main aim of which is to strengthen health capacities in the Eastern Caribbean in order to address public health emergencies.
COVID-19 has accelerated the procurement and supply chain management journey and the OECS Commission has strengthened regional partnerships with CARPHA, CDEMA and CARICOM in the regional response as part of the regional procurement hub, and the engagement of the EASIBuy procurement platform to allow for the electronic procurement tools to be used for short term/ urgent pooled procurements which have been outside of the usual cycle of PPS and previous scope. This has also given us access to the exciting reverse auction tool for the procurement of electronic devices to respond to education challenges in COVID-19, which stakeholders will have an opportunity to view live. In this regard, the Commission rebranded the service from the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (OECS/PPS) to the OECS Pooled Procurement and Supply Chain Management Service given the broader scope of its procurement mandate.
The journey continues in the era of the “new normal” and the OECS Commission continues its commitment to ensuring that procurement processes and supply chain management systems are agile and add value to our Member States while ensuring that what we need can be available at good quality and fair prices in a secured supply chain.