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‘Procurement is a profession only for the certified professionals’

By Victor Uzoho
24 April 2019   |   4:13 am
I would say there are enormous challenges particularly from the sector’s specialists, who don’t want to acquire knowledge in a particular area but would like to practice.

Muhammed Aliyu is the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria (CIPSMN). He spoke on the challenges of the sector and calls for the recognition of professionals to check misappropriation and contract inflation. He told VICTOR UZOHO that the institute hopes to use its yearly conference in Lagos, to educate Nigerians on the importance of procurement to economic recovery.

What has been the challenge since you assumed office as registrar of CIPSMN?
I would say there are enormous challenges particularly from the sector’s specialists, who don’t want to acquire knowledge in a particular area but would like to practice.

The situation is that people who are not competent are being saddled with the responsibility to conduct national affairs in a society that is so blessed with enormous material and mineral resources but is swimming in abject poverty.
We are educating Nigerians that it’s high time we did things in the right way.

The World Bank carried out a study in conjunction with the institute and the findings revealed that about 80 to 90per cent of the total budget of any country goes into procurement contract and services while the other 10per cent is for other sectors’ specialists.

Procurement is a field that everybody wants to go into, not realising that it’s not buying but when we are talking about procurement, it means the industrial aspect of the process, which is based on the techniques involved in conducting the affair.

We have been educating the public and government that procurement is a profession only for the certified professionals.
When you don’t leave it for professionals, you see contract inflation and the 10 per cent issue that you often hear about; the handlers call that 10per cent to indicate fraud in the system.

Can you educate us on what exactly is procurement, logistics or supply chain management?
Purchasing, procurement or supply chain management is an Act or Science learned only by doing. For example, as the average person like you who is not professionally connected with purchasing, procurement, or supply chain management what the concept means and in almost every case the person just like you will come up with limited answer in some form of buying or other.

Over the past 30 years, ‘management education’ has undergone a series of fundamental changes at all levels of the educational system. Until recently however, elements of management concerned with supplies, suppliers, acquisition management, logistics management, materials management, ware house management, stores management and transportation seemed to be ignored almost as if they had no practical or intellectual contribution to education management, disaster management, risk management, defence, ‘business or operations in general.

Meanwhile all that has changed dramatically, as the proportion of goods and services partially or totally outsourced by major companies have increased out of all recognition. Many firms have reached the point where they “make” very little of what they sell. Organisations have become dependent on (and potentially vulnerable to) their suppliers and their supply chains to an extent unimaginable in the past. In everyday language and also in management contexts, the words and phrases, purchasing, procurement, materials management, logistics and Supply chain management are very closely and used interchangeably and as such may be regarded as been fundamentally complimentary to each other. This interrelationship is recognised by professional institutes as well as in academic circle.

Tell us about your forthcoming yearly conference?
It is a programme that is meant to rejuvenate our members’ knowledge as far as latest thinking in this dynamic field is concerned because it is applicable to all reasonable professional bodies to continue developing their members from time to time.

For instance, what has been going on in the country, they need to know that procurement is key to anything that anybody wants to do. The reason being that without the right material or the right quality and quantity, with the right personnel handling it, no organisation can function effectively and efficiently. Take for example, during the just concluded elections, you can see what happened as regards some of the sensitive materials, as far as we in the procurement field is concerned; all materials are sensitive because money is involved. Therefore, the way you saw the distribution of the items, you can see it was not professionally handled and that was why you heard that some items did not arrive to the polling units. If it were given to procurement professionals, we would know how to code it and all the items would move at the same time and if anyone tamper with it, it would be rendered useless because he doesn’t know the code to unlock it. We called the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from time to time that they should seek for our professional advise in these areas because anybody that is not trained professionally in that aspect cannot do the job effectively and efficiently. So you can see, the involvement of the procurement professionals is very key in any human endeavor.

We are using the conference to create awareness so that people would see things for themselves and ask questions once they realise that their money is not used judiciously.

The conference will educate people on what is involved in procurement/supply chain management because some see it as a moneymaking venue once they hear that someone is in procurement.
We also want to let them know that financial audit is different from procurement audit.

Financial audit deals with naira and kobo whereas procurement auditing has to do with the x-ray of the whole circle.
The programme will also enlighten participants about what is material asset misappropriation. For example, the civil servants in some States are not paid their salaries, with that sad development how would they function effectively?
It thus means that you’re teaching them to steal, which CIPSMN as a body tries to discourage.

There are concerns on the issue of accountability and transparency in the procurement process, how do we really tackle the challenge?
Very simple, allow the professionals to do the job so that there won’t be misappropriation. Lack of professionals in procurement, is the bane of the sector. There is a process of awarding contracts because it is not supposed to be split.

But you find out that people are splitting contracts and only professionals can tell us that it is unethical to do bid rigging. Taxpayers should ask authorities how their money is being spent when it comes to the acquisition of materials, services and works.

See potholes everywhere, do they use the right materials to construct them. See the issue of building collapse, aircraft crashing, do they use the appropriate materials for their management, warehouse, logistics management or supply chain management. Countries have initiated moves to establish an enduring and practicable procurement culture among themselves, as a result of grave corporate scandals evidenced in both public and private organisations.

This is why the World Bank is interested in establishing sound procurement system in all the three tiers of government now that so much is lost through unorganised, uncoordinated, unplanned, and unprofessional procurement system in all the sectors. They know that what we should ordinarily purchase for N1000 is being sold to the government at twice the price and there is no certified procurement professional that will accept that. Also, lack of policy implementation creates room fo cheating in terms of inflated prices.

A professional in this field of endeavour is required to have the commercial, managerial, tactical ability and capability to perform the functions effectively.

What are you doing to check quackery in the profession?
We have been holding conferences, seminars and mandatory courses. For example, our conference holding today would educate people, bring in people from diverse areas to know what procurement is all about.

Procurement is the acquisition of goods, works and services and so anybody that is saddled to do that must be very lettered.

If you don’t know the concept of procurement and the mechanism involved in the business negotiation then you negotiate yourself or your organisation out of it.

In business, you don’t get what you deserve but what you negotiate and that is what is happening in the political arena too.

The politicians know how to get the electorates by distributing money and the voters don’t realise that the politicians are buying their conscience and future.

Till today, where we talk about corruption in the country, none of our members have been caught in the act. Those who are caught are not professionals.

To tackle the challenge is to allow the professionals to do procurement so that there won’t be misappropriation.
The benefits of procurement are not seen in the country today because we have failed to imbibe the principles of procurement and until we imbibe them, stealing will continue.

You lamented that government doesn’t recognise the expertise of professionals in procurement, why is this so?
Those in government are not following the due process of procurement because everybody wants to get rich quickly without carrying the masses along, without thinking of the country’s development and best international practice.
I often tell people that procurement is the only profession that leads while others follow. Procurement is as old as man and could be traced to the Bible and Holy Quran.

Yet it hasn’t been given the necessary recognition and that is why we face the problems of corruption and everybody wants to engage in the art of buying and selling without having what it takes to do so. Public procurement has been a big problem because those who are saddled with power want to continue to siphon the wealth of the country.

Why is it that the council hasn’t been inaugurated?
It hasn’t been inaugurated because of the nefarious activities some people in government want to carry out.
If the council is inaugurated, it will be able to check and correct anything that is not in order. The professionals are not saddled to do the job in the Bureau of Public Procurement. The first director general wasn’t a professional in procurement. Any area you want to practise, make sure you are certified in the field.

The trade union, which is supposed to take action, some of them would have gone to shake hands with the authority and on coming back, they would say they are looking at it. It is one of the things that work against us in this country; you can never see anyone who wants to put things in the right shape.

We have suggested to the government at several levels that things should be done with due process. There is no way you can get someone from the street and put him or her in a field where they lack competence or training.

As the registrar and procurement professional what do you see to the present administration trying to address some of the problems facing the country and the mistakes of the past?
The president is trying his best, but I feel that he should give opportunities to the core professionals to help him drive his programs because we professionals, particularly procurement professionals will tell him the truth about issues without any vested interest other than seeing that the country develops. For example, the government of the day needs to know that procurement professionals know the best type of product to buy, where to buy from and the best time to buy and negotiate effectively and efficiently on behalf of the government. Needless to say, that the act and science of procurement adds value and increases benefits to task payers’ money.

What advice do you have for the government, sister professional bodies, and Nigeria in general?
First and foremost to the government is the fight against the monster called corruption. The fight against corruption is good, government should intensify more efforts because it has portrayed our country in a bad light. The CIPSMN and her members appreciate the Federal Government’s efforts towards the fight however, call on the government to implement urgently the Public Procurement Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act and to support the procurement professiomls to enable them take their rightful place in the scheme of things. I wish to say and advice that the problem of tussle of purchasing and supply management profession, which has rubbed the country the opportunity of sound procurement system should urgently be addressed. Obviously, attention to these procurement matters must occur at the same time as careful attention is paid to other extremely important matters like security, technology, and financial resource. Effective procurement system makes dealing with these matters all the more effective.

Equally too, I am appealing to Nigerians that henceforth, professional bodies should stop encroaching into one another’s area of specialisation. I can specifically say that, never a time in the past and now has the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Chain Management of Nigeria organize trainings in engineering, accounting and others for her members and the general public because, it is not part of her mandate or field of specialisation, object nor is it her area of core competence.

It is important that, we advise ourselves as objectively as possible to avoid un healthy rivalry and acrimony capable of hurting our collective desires to raise the status of Nigerian professionals. The concept of JACK OF ALL TRADE and master of non-does not augur well for professionalism. These few thoughts of mine, are aimed at ensuring good and better relationships between sister professional bodies and their members, between professionals and their employers all for nation building as well as peaceful coexistence.

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