Procurement Reform Laboratories (Part 3/3): Setting up Procurement Labs

by Dirk B

In the previous two parts of this three-part series on Procurement Reform Labs, we examined the general context of Procurement Labs and the Features of procurement labs, detailing why procurement reform labs are needed. Not surprisingly in this last part, we lear Setting up Procurement Labs as well as tips for its proper functioning. This chapter helps lab stakeholders understand how to start and to set up Procurement Reform Laboratories. Setting up the Lab follows a sequence of phases: 

1- Procurement Reform Laboratory stakeholder mapping

It is important to identify key actors and stakeholders as early as possible. At the same time, one needs to allow flexibility to include emerging stakeholders along the way. A member or stakeholder has or perceives to have something to gain or lose through the outcomes of a procurement reform process. The process of stakeholder analysis and mapping allows for the identification of stakeholders, but also the needs, interests and capacity of the stakeholders. The result of the stakeholder process is a firm map of stakeholders, as well as a more complete idea of how to engage and include them in the Lab.

Stakeholder mapping could happen in phases that could include:

  1. Identifying the Stakeholders
  2. Analysing the Stakeholders
  3. Mapping the Stakeholders

The map may contain different groups of stakeholders as follows: national public authorities, national public beneficiaries, international development partners, private sector operators and institutions, civil society organisations, media, academia, opinion makers, parliament, etc. The mapping methodology will combine desk review, internet search, interviews and site visits. 

The stakeholders are mapped and categorized along identified profile, needs and issues, interests, geography, capacity and whichever criterion is relevant in the given context.

Results are entered in a visual map along the above criteria, visualizing the patterns of strengths and weaknesses of representation. This visualization will guide the Procurement Lab going forward addressing under- and overrepresentation.

2- Needs and issues assessment

The needs and issues assessment identifies the key factors, which determine the aggregate performance of the system. The type of assessment can take any shape as there is a wide variety of methodologies on the market, the MAPS [1] is the most commonly known, but there are also AfDB’s BCPA[2], UNOPS’ Rapid Procurement Review (RPA), the EU’s Pillar 5 Assessment, UNDP’s Procurement Capacity Development Guide, etc.

In all circumstances, the assessment should be short in order to provide solid and good enough grounds for the Procurement Lab to start operating. On the one hand, it is impossible to capture all issues at once. Second, it is important to start a sequence or cycle of activities as soon as possible. Third, the assessment will be a continuous cycle, allowing trial and error, learning and improvement. Fourth, issues evolve and change over time.

The assessment should at least comprise the following steps:

  1. Data collection and desk review. Data are collected from the country, as well as through web searches and information gathered from public sources such as international data, statistics and reports from the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and international and regional organizations; the desk review concentrates on existing data and information on governance, public sector management and finance and transparency issues in the country. The purpose is to identify how procurement delays, inefficiencies, opacity and slow project implementation impact the ability of governments to comply with and deliver on governance and the social agenda;
  2. In-country interviews, meetings and discussions with key stakeholders in the country. These include government officials at different levels, procurement practitioners, vendors and suppliers and civil society;
  3. Issues identified by key national stakeholders affecting procurement implementation, as well as their causes and effects.

This phase is concluded with a stakeholder-wide workshop reporting on the results. The invited stakeholders include central procurement authorities, federal line ministries, country procurement authorities, private sector representatives, civil society organisations, training institutions, media, justice, Fraud & Corruption entities, etc. The outcome of the workshop is threefold: (1) a common understanding of the public procurement situation, issues and needs; (2) to ensure the engagement of all stakeholders; and (3) to invite all stakeholders to start reflecting on strategic solutions to resolve the issues and to fill in the needs.

3- Strategy development

This phase will link the identified issues and needs to targeted strategies on how to alleviate or resolve the issues and needs. The strategy methodology will start with extensive interviews and site visits. The collected information will be categorised and entered in a repository for everybody’s review and as a source for inspiration.

This phase again is concluded with a stakeholder-wide workshop reporting on the results of the strategy development. The invited stakeholders are the same. The outcome of the workshop is twofold: (1) a common understanding and agreement of key strategic interventions; (2) to invite all stakeholders to start reflecting on the action plan to execute the agreed strategies.

4- Action plan development

The third phase will transform the strategic initiatives into a clear action plan. Every action must include:

  • Sequencing: (i) inputs, (ii) outputs and (iii) results, i.e. solutions;
  • Leadership role, often (a) government institution(s);
  • Ownership role(s), without a limit to the number of stakeholders;
  • Resources, financial and human resources, identified and targeted.

The methodology will require extensive interviews and site visits. The collected information will be categorised and entered in the repository for everybody’s review and as a source for reference.

This phase is concluded with a stakeholder-wide workshop reporting on the results of the action plan development. The invited stakeholders are the same.  The outcome of the workshop is threefold: (1) a common agreement of the actions to be undertaken; (2) identification of roles and responsibilities (leadership as well as ownership) and (3) planning for the implementation of the action plan.

5- Monitoring & Evaluation

An M&E system will be designed and put in place to allow reporting on action implementation progress. This system will not only consist of a tool, but also of a methodology and practices to allow stakeholders’ oversight and feedback, constituting a continuous peer learning mechanism. The M&E methodology will be tailored to the action plan indicators during the first few weeks of the implementation phase.

6- Action plan implementation

During the implementation of the action plan, the Procurement Lab will provide advice and guidance, and will support the execution of the initiatives and monitor the implementation of the action plan.

The plan to move forward will be collaborative and workshop-driven, where all the stakeholders participate and share responsibility for the outcome.

This phase is concluded with a stakeholder-wide workshop, reporting on the one-year results of the action plan. The invited stakeholders are the same. The outcome of the workshop is twofold: (1) take stock of the results achieved after one year of activities; (2) planning for the way forward.

7- Sustainability

The action plan is updated, diversified and innovated during the workshops and becomes a continuous vehicle for shared change and improvement throughout the years.


This white paper is a summary of findings and experiences deducted from work in the field in close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. Admittedly the champions taking the lead came from diverse sectors and disciplines: sometimes central government departments, sometimes private sector partners like chambers of commerce, sometimes civil society organisations and platforms, while all training institutes moved to the forefront. Whenever Procurement Labs are set up, it is key not to be discouraged by the cold welcome of some of the stakeholders but to start building ownership and synergies among the stakeholders that take up the challenge. The energy will spread widely, grow deeply and gain momentum over time.

[1] The Methodology for Assessing Procurement Systems (MAPS), new version launched in October 2017, can be used instead

[2] Bank Country Procurement Assessment

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