Against a background of studies indicating that procurement processes are vulnerable to corruption, collusion, and fraud and manipulation, Public Procurement has been identified as the government activity most vulnerable to corruption. A well-functioning Government procurement system requires holistic approach. It should comprise a legislative framework, supported by regulations necessary, and by institutional, administrative and legal infrastructure. In other words procurement rules and procedures alone are insufficient and effective implementation and operational efficacy are vital. This means that the objective of avoiding corruption through the promotion of integrity in the system has to be balanced with ensuring the efficient use of public resources. Thus achieving value for money in procurement which is sometimes referred to as ‘allocative efficiency’. However when undertaking value for money objectives in procurement, corruption tends to find its way in, consequently the principle of allocative efficiency is hardly achieved. This research has studied how these twin aims are balanced and integrated into a well-functioning Public Procurement system.
In terms of methodology the research followed a mixed approach where both a quantitative survey using a questionnaire and qualitative data collection through structured, in-depth interviews, participatory approach and an exhaustive document review were used. Purposive sampling technique was used to get the population sample to be interviewed. Data from both quantitative and qualitative methods was analyzed using excel spreadsheet and conclusion was deduced in both tabular and statistical formats.
The findings from the research show that there is corruption in public procurement in the following areas:
a) Supplier/Contractor induced corruption in public procurement as a result of stringent competition for government contracts where suppliers bribe their way to influence tendering decisions;
b) Public official induced corruption through creation of bureaucratic hurdles that necessitate seeking faster services through paying bribes by the suppliers/contractor.
c) Public official induced corruption mainly due to lack of values and adherence to ethical practices and in some instances due to low salaries of civil servants; and
d) Politically induced corruption where contractors with political connections receive favors for the fear of political persecutions.
e) Lack of institutional, and individual capacity as to effectively comply with the legal and regulatory framework.
Based on the above findings this researcher recommends that in order to fight corruption in public procurement in Malawi the following need to be in place:
1. An effective public procurement systems supported by capacity development programs both at institutional and individual level is a requirement.
2. Capacity development strategies must be drawn to address gaps in legislative and regulatory framework, institutional framework and management capacity, procurement operations and market practices and above all integrity and transparency of the procurement system.
3. Political will to root out political interference in procurement which was found to be the major intervening variable.