Speech at the Opening Session Forum on Government Procurement of Public Services Organised by China Society for Public Sector Reform

19 Apr 2014


by Mr. Patrick Haverman, Deputy Country Director, United Nations Development Programme 

 

Honorable President Huang Wenping,

Honorable Deputy Secretary General ms Wang Jing,

Our longstanding partners from UNDP prof. Chi Fulin from CIRD and prof. Zhou from Beijing University,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.  It is my pleasure to be here today at the Forum on Government Procurement of Public Services.  I would like to extend my particular thanks to the China Society for Public Sector Reform for inviting UNDP to share our experience on this important issue.

Globally governments and experts are currently discussing what the new development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, should look like. In 2012, the United Nations created a global online dialogue called “My World”, which asked the public to identify the issues they think are the most relevant for their lives.  What is fascinating about the survey is that after health and education, nearly 2 million people surveyed worldwide voted for an honest and responsive government as the third most important priority.  This illustrates the high global public demand to improve governance, to improve the public sector.

During the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress, the Chinese government made a decision to promote government procurement of public services through contract, and introduce competition mechanism into purchase of general social public services. The third plenary session also decided to accelerate the reform of public service units and encourage qualified public institutions to transform into enterprises or social organizations.  Already we see important steps being taken by the Government in these areas.

I very much welcome the topic for this forum, public procurement.  In many countries, the management of procurement initiatives is a much-overlooked aspect of public administration and seen as a simple technical administrative task.  Globally public procurement represents on average 15% of GDP worldwide; it is the backbone not only of a well-functioning government, but of a well-functioning economy.

Clear, consistent and transparent procurement processes are at the heart of anti-corruption measures and building people’s confidence in their government.  The principles of procurement underpin law-based governance beginning from competitive and open bidding processes to ending with public access to audits and other information about procurement.  The challenge in building a procurement system is to prioritize transparency and competition while at the same time avoiding cumbersome and overly bureaucratic procedures. 

Globally we have learned that countries that improve their governance, have honest and competent institutions, also raise their standard of living. This is why we, as the UNDP, partner with many countries to support public sector reform.  For example in Kenya, UNDP has partnered with the Public Transformation Department to implement performance based management. In Lebanon we partnered with the Minister of State to implement ICT tools for tracking public service procurement and delivery.

The world over the public sector is undergoing a “paradigm shift” moving away from the traditional role of inflexible, control-based public institutions that are procedure oriented towards flexible public institutions that are transparent, accountable to citizens and produce results.  Increasingly merit, capability and quality should matter more than mere seniority or accustomed procedures. 

As the gaps among developed and developing countries are converging, we are seeing a rapid expansion of inequality within countries.  Rural areas are being left out.  We are seeing the emergence of pockets of wealth, however minority or indigenous groups are falling behind. Women in many countries have fewer educational opportunities than men and are often impacted by social and family violence.

In China too, the economic miracle produced significant social-economic inequalities, people at the bottom of the economic pyramid are bound to become impatient. So the public administration cannot afford to wait with innovation and change.

UNDP is delighted to work with the Society for Management of Public Sector Reform within the framework of our ongoing programme partnership with SCOPSR on public administration reform. As an old friend of China, UNDP will bring relevant international expertise and catalytic innovation to the table for our Chinese colleagues to study and to consider as they craft their own solutions to the challenges they face.

In closing, on behalf of UNDP China, I wish to express our sincere gratitude to our Chinese counterparts for their excellent partnership and friendship with us. I would like to thank our colleagues and friends from the provinces. I wish you great success in the forum and look forward to more fruitful collaboration like this in the future.

Thank you very much!