Procurement Management: Can UN be at the forefront of procurement change?


Can UN be at the forefront of procurement change?

It could, but it hardly will in near future.

UN agencies are biggest procurers in the developing world. They share knowledge, best practice and procurement techniques with governments and local communities. UN is a very good implementer of procurement innovations. Good implementer, but not the trend-maker or inventor of new procurement approach.

One can hardly recall any new procurement approach or new industry standard offered by UN agencies. For decades any mind shifting progressive approach in green procurement, e-procurement, cloud procurement has been coming from corporate world or governments, but not the United Nations.

Is this the lack of will and motivation, proper system or the lack of proper people? In UN’s case we witness all together.

Being united, each UN agency has its very own procurement manual or guidelines, different procurement software, very own talent management system, very own application and evaluation system. (Imagine US states each having its own Federal Acquisition Regulation and different HR approach.)

Eventually, if a procurement specialist from one UN agency wants to move to another UN agency, s/he should start exploring the hosting agency’s procurement manual from square one. In addition to this, s/he should study new SOPs, software, workflow, etc.

You may see many “internal job opportunities” in UN. This happens because it is easier to hire a local officer, who is familiar with the setup and customs. This fully stops any fresh blood.

UN procurement can hardly produce a new industry standard with this approach. And as it is with any huge, inflexible corporation it only loses hundreds of millions of dollars every year because of this.

Few years back UN started its harmonization process to bring procurement into one common ground. Belated, but very necessary decision. However, decades of different, independent procurement approach and unique decision making in each agency make the process fail. Yet.

Mila Southey

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