Research on how infrastructure procurement can enhance social development

In 2004 we collaborated with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the ICE Presidential Commission ‘Engineering without Frontiers’ for a research project to identify opportunities to improve social development by modifying how public infrastructure projects are procured.

The research was based on the assumption that the way procurement is carried out and the details of the contracts entered into can have a significant impact on the performance of the asset and can contribute to the achievement of broader social and economic goals. It resulted in two major outputs detailed below.

A major research report

In 2006 we published, Modifying Infrastructure Procurement to Enhance Social Development, which sets out how current procurement practices are hindering or enabling social development. The publication draws on a detailed analysis of documentation followed by focus group discussions in four case study countries, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria.

The key recommendation emerging from the research is that the greatest social benefit will be derived if construction projects are identified, planned and designed in alignment with national development plans and taking into consideration operational and maintenance requirements. The report also advised using alternatives to the predominant “lowest bidder” approach in procurement advocated by most international development banks, and that particular effort is needed to strengthen the enforcement of contract conditions.

The findings were presented to major donors, including the African Development Bank and European Commission and to other stakeholders in individual developing countries.

Guidance for core stakeholders

The second phase of research gathered evidence of successful attempts to use procurement to deliver specific social, economic and industrial development objectives. This culminated in the briefing notes below which can be used by donors, governments, procurement agencies, public sector clients and their advisers.

Briefing Note: Increasing local content in the procurement of infrastructure projects in low income countries

The first note demonstrated that procurement processes can serve as a powerful tool to promote local content in infrastructure construction, but challenges remain. These challenges include the preference for expensive, high tech and large-scale projects which are not within the capability of the local industry, as well as the failure of international agencies to balance objectives. The note makes recommendations to deal with these issues and to promote local content at each stage of the project cycle. The briefing note was launched at the International Conference of the Institution of Engineers Tanzania in Arusha, Tanzania in December 2008.

Download the Briefing Note.

Briefing Note: Promoting Construction Health and Safety through Procurement

The second note focussed on measures which can be taken to address construction health and safety. A number of international agencies have been working to improve health and safety in the workplace, but what is less well emphasised is how procurement procedures can be used to improve workplace health and safety. The Briefing Note addresses this gap, explaining what measures can be taken at each stage of the construction procurement cycle.

Download the Briefing Note.