High unemployment, a lowering of the living standards of the majority of people, and limited resources for infrastructure upgrades have resulted in increased levels of frustration and anger among many people in South Africa. In addition to this, continued poor service delivery quality and an uncertain economic future has resulted in the loss of skilled human capital to other parts of the world.
In order to try and attend to the growing needs of an increasing population, local government needs to begin to recognise the importance of accountability and governance in their development plans. In addition, they need to start to apply accountability and good governance principles to their procurement policies and practices. This is especially because accountability and good governance have been recognised as key to improving supply chain practices, and related service delivery and socio-economic development in the country.
Before a culture of accountability and good governance can be adopted at local government level, individuals working in this sector need to begin to change their mind-set and adopt accountability and governance driven attitudes and behaviours. These include being: process driven and taking responsibility for their actions; having a strong respect for rules and wanting to make a difference in their institution, community and society at large; value chain, performance and customer driven as well as having a clear understanding of how to stimulate the economy while at the same time managing risk; and finally being focused, disciplined, decisive, bold and a good communicator. In addition, they should be committed to taking a socially responsible approach to everything that they do.
Since accountability and good governance start with the individual, procurement professionals in local government need to start to take responsibility for their procurement processes and ensure acquisitions are not based purely on price, but are rather geared towards supporting local industrialisation and socio-economic development. They need to be bold and entrepreneurial in their procurement decision, challenge practices that are not supportive of local development and be accountable for their decisions.
Since governance, accountability and long-term socio-economic development are inextricably linked they need to become more strategic in their procurement practices and focus on facilitating long-term wealth generation rather than short-term price gains. This can be achieved by listening more and talking less, engaging more and focusing on fostering a sense of real empowerment rather than entitlement. By adapting to an Afri-“can” versus Afri-“can’t” attitude local government procurement practitioners can begin to take accountability for their actions and follow the processes that they have put in place.
In short, local governments across the country need to reassess their current procurement practices, and begin to implement processes and procedures focused on ensuring accountability and good governance at personal, professional and institutional levels. Not only will an accountability and governance focused local government provide greater opportunities for the quality delivery of essential services, it will also help to contribute more effectively towards socio-economic growth, industrialisation, increasing trade, improving employment opportunities, growing wealth, raising living standards and establishing social and political cohesion in the country.