COVID-19: Ensuring procurement transparency amidst the health crisis in Indonesia

April 29, 2020

President Joko Widodo declared the Covid-19 outbreak as a national crisis on 13 April. While it is imperative that the government moves fast to curb disease transmission, it is also important that transparency is upheld when managing this crisis. This includes the government’s public procurement process. Hivos believes that transparency is crucial to ensure the government’s efforts accurately address people’s needs and that public money is well spent.

Calling COVID-19 a national crisis has had several consequences, both legally and in terms of coordination between agencies involved. The government introduced emergency legislation to respond to this health crisis. Leadership of the response efforts now fall under the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA)     , which is under the president’s command. NDMA can mobilize all kinds of resources – human, equipment, and logistics – and organize public procurement.

Around the world, countries are competing to procure whatever they need to address COVID-19, including test kits, personal protective equipment, medical needs for Covid-19 designated hospitals, and more. In response, President Joko Widodo has instructed his cabinet members to accelerate procurement process.

The National Public Procurement Agency (NPPA) has issued a policy that allows government agencies to directly appoint vendors to procure goods and services during an emergency. The policy significantly cut down the length of the process from dozens to just several days.

Being able to move quickly is important, but the government needs to act accountable and disclose procurement contracts. Without safeguarding measures in place, the COVID-19 allocated budget (IDR 75 trillion) is at risk of inefficiency, fraud, and corruption.

The NPPA policy requires the subnational and national government to specify needs to stop disease transmission. If this policy is accessible to the public, they can help monitor the procured goods, whether these are suitable to the response efforts, and whether there are any issues clogging supplies.

Fighting COVID-19 together

At a time when resources are primarily directed to address Covid-19 and its immediate impacts, the government time and human resources are stretched thin. This is when the government needs to consider the civil society as an ally. Analyzing the government’s readiness, ensuring that available resources are being allocated effectively and efficiently, and maintaining transparency and accountability in procurement are ways in which civil society organizations can contribute.

If the government shares information about emergency procurement openly, citizens and the private sector can rally behind the government to help. There are already initiatives from citizens and business groups making donations for PPE purchase and producing medical PPE by obeying the standards from the Ministry of Health.

The government needs to make the procurement data available in real-time. By doing so, the public or designated hospitals can track the procurement process, know when to expect supplies and how much, and assess the sufficiency. They can also inform the government when areas are at risk of being underserved. This kind of feedback allows the government to easily map needs while keeping the procurement process ongoing.

Civil society organizations can also help analyzing and monitor the prices of supplies and goods against quality and agreed specifications. Fraud and conflicts of interest can be spotted this way, and it can also help to sustain healthy competition between suppliers.

When civil society maps the available supplies and equipment in each region, people will be able to know where to go without risking to infect other people.

When government, civil society, and the private sector work together, we can flatten the curve. Opening up about contracting increases not only public trust. It also gives people the opportunity to support the government in fighting COVID-19 together and help Indonesia on the post-COVID road to recovery.