The Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB), through its Technical Support Office (TSO), has now received the final report on the comprehensive assessment of the Philippine Public Procurement System. The GPPB, with the technical assistance of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB), conducted the assessment from 2019 to 2021. The objective was to enhance and strengthen the country’s procurement system by identifying gaps, opportunities, and challenges within the existing policy framework. The findings from the report will guide the GPPB in formulating policies that are more responsive, agile, and sustainable, allow for innovation, and further leverage digital advances toward a more transparent and accountable public procurement system.

Using the updated 2018 Methodology for Assessing Procurement Systems (MAPS), the GPPB embarked on this crucial initiative to gauge the effectiveness of the country’s procurement system by evaluating the impact of existing reforms and strategies in government procurement. The assessment process, which began with the creation of the GPPB-led MAPS Steering Committee, ensured the inclusion of representatives from GPPB-member agencies, the private sector, and civil society organizations (CSOs). This collaborative effort sought to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the procurement landscape in the country.

Despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the GPPB and its TSO, in close collaboration with other stakeholders, demonstrated their unwavering support and commitment to overcome obstacles, enabling the MAPS Assessment Team to conduct an inclusive assessment. The team examined the procurement activities of 17 Procuring Entities (PEs), notably from National Government Agencies (6), Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (3), Local Government Units (5), and State Universities and Colleges (3).  A total of 186 contracts were analyzed comprised of different procurement types, particularly: 130 Civil Works contracts (70%), 49 Goods contracts (26%), and 7 Consulting Services contracts (4%). Out of these sample contracts, 167 underwent Competitive Bidding while the remaining 19 resorted to Alternative Methods of Procurement. This comprehensive evaluation sought to capture a holistic view of the public procurement system’s strengths and weaknesses.

­On 23 June 2022, this initial report on the assessment was presented to the GPPB focusing on the seven (7) Key Areas for Improvement, which included rules on participation, procurement methods, support to value for money, complaints review mechanisms, sustainable public procurement, strategy and enabling environment for the professionalization of the procurement function, and e-procurement system. This allowed the Board to begin addressing any gaps or challenges in these areas.

Since then, the GPPB and its TSO have made notable progress in addressing the issues in the draft report. For instance, the ADB highlighted in May 2023 that the report identified an overall lack of bidder participation in terms of access to bidding documents, and increased rate of bidding failures. As initial steps to overcome these challenges, the GPPB has been providing policy interventions and tools, such the use of the online Philippine Bidding Documents (PBD) Builder to assist the PEs to craft their bidding documents, and development of a toolkit on project costing and technical specifications writing to help them better develop their project requirements.  Further, the GPPB, through its TSO, has been working closely with the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) on the guidelines for the e-bidding platform under the modernized PhilGEPS, including the possible integration of built-in payment facility, for purposes of acquiring bidding documents and timely payment of procurement contracts. Also, the GPPB, through its TSO, is working closely with the Commission on Audit and other regulatory agencies to streamline procurement processes, particularly during procurement planning and contract implementation.

While addressing these gaps in these key areas, the GPPB eagerly awaited the release of the final report after a stringent two-tier process of validation and quality assurance – first by the MAPS Secretariat then second by the MAPS Assessment’s Technical Advisory Group (ATAG). Last 16 May 2023, the World Bank informed the GPPB-TSO that the final MAPS Assessment Report obtained the non-objection of the MAPS ATAG, and that the report was subsequently presented to the MAPS Steering Committee on 8 June 2023. It gave members of the Steering Committee an opportunity to share their recommendations for the report, which is slated for publication by June 2023.

During that Committee meeting, Mr. Dominic Reyes Aumentado, Co-Task Team Lead from the World Bank, commended the GPPB and its TSO for their continued support throughout the assessment process. He emphasized the significance of prioritizing the 7 Key Areas for Improvement to guide future developments in the Philippine Public Procurement System. Mr. Aumentado also acknowledged the collaborative efforts between the MAPS Assessment Team and participating agencies, which facilitated virtual document examination and fruitful engagement.

Ms. Victoria Maglanque of Government Watch (G-Watch), one of the CSO partners of the MAPS Assessment, highlighted the importance of citizen participation in public procurement. She advocated for increased transparency and access to information, empowering citizens to actively monitor and implement procurement projects. In response, GPPB-TSO Executive Director Rowena Candice M. Ruiz assured Ms. Maglanque that ongoing initiatives, including updating the Procurement Observers’ Manual and developing an Observer’s Portal, will enhance citizen participation in the procurement process.

On the other hand, agency members of the MAPS Steering Committee raised important queries, particularly Assistant Secretary Ester A. Aldana from the Department of Interior and Local Government who sought clarification on the feasibility of the 7 Key Areas for Improvement and whether actions can be taken in response to the recommendations. In response, Executive Director Ruiz emphasized that the MAPS recommendations primarily serve as a guide to identify areas of concern in public procurement. She further explained that while the recommendations are achievable, their implementation would primarily depend on the policy direction of the GPPB.

Additionally, Assistant Secretary Danielle Marie S. Rieza-Culangen from the Department of Finance raised a pertinent question regarding whether the MAPS report and recommendations accurately reflect the reality of procurement performance in the Philippines, considering the sample size limitations during the assessment. Executive Director Ruiz assured that the GPPB-TSO and MAPS ATAG took extensive measures to ensure that the sample size used in the assessment was representative of the procurement reality of the Philippine government. Further, Mr. Aumentado highlighted that the team conducted multiple validations involving various stakeholders such as PEs, suppliers, manufacturers, and civil society organizations, ensuring that the sample size accurately reflected overall procurement activities.

The comprehensive assessment conducted by the GPPB provided invaluable insights into the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities within the Philippine Public Procurement System. The final report, which has undergone rigorous validation and quality assurance processes, will serve as a crucial guide for the GPPB in formulating policies and strategies to enhance the country’s procurement system and meet the government’s evolving needs. The collaborative efforts between the GPPB, participating agencies, CSOs, and other stakeholders demonstrate a commitment to improving transparency, citizen participation, and the overall effectiveness of the Philippine Public Procurement System.

For a copy of the report, please visit: https://www.mapsinitiative.org/assessments/MAPS-Assessment-report-philippines-volumeI.pdf