ISLAMABAD: The Secretaries Committee, headed by Secretary Cabinet has directed Ministries/ Divisions to prepare Annual Procurement Plan (APP) to execute through e-Pak Acquisition and Disposal System (EPADS) amid fears that the system can be hacked, well informed sources told Business Recorder.
At a recent meeting of Secretaries Committee, Managing Director, PPRA, informed the Committee that the Federal PPRA had developed the “e-Pak Acquisition and Disposal System (EPADS)”, a comprehensive web-based software platform designed to manage the entire procurement process.
The Government’s initiative to shift the procurement process from traditional mode of procurement to EPADS was being implemented with a rationale to bring transparency in government procurement system, he stated adding that “e-Pak Procurement Regulations, 2023” had been notified and new insertion as rule 7-A (e-public procurement), which stipulates to carry out e-procurement process by using information and communication technologies or digital or electronic means had been made.
Finance Division informed the Committee that pursuant to the Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF, the Government of Pakistan had committed that e-Procurement System shall be fully rolled-out at the federal and provincial levels by end-December 2023.
MD, PPRA further stated that a study had already established that e-procurement helps reduce costs by about 30%. PPRA further advised that the e-procurement process required Ministries/ Divisions to draw an annual procurement plan, which must be uploaded on EPADS software; and further contended that EPADS system had already been successfully piloted in Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination and Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training. Moreover, training was being imparted to other Ministries/ Divisions.
Ministry of Railways shared that it had installed its own system, which was at an advanced level of implementation. PPRA advised to follow a central system and added that running a parallel system would not be helpful; EPADS offered the facility to integrate individual systems.
Citing the example of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was noted that the province was at an advanced stage of e- procurement and about 1030 departmental transactions had been made through e- procurement.
It was added that MoUs were signed with provincial PPRAs including Punjab PPRA, KP PPRA, Sindh PPRA and AJK PPRA. In addition, MoUs were also signed with other government entities including NADRA, SECP, PEC, FBR, PRAL, AGPR, DRAP, PID, Provincial Revenue Authorities, etc., for verification, system integration, and information exchange.
PPRA re-iterated its instructions on August 24, 2023 to Ministries/ Divisions to essentially conduct all procurement activities through EPADS. It also emphasised that any manual procurement shall be declared as mis-procurement.
Responding to the apprehensions relating to possible hacking, PPRA assured that EPADS was a secure system of procurement and both PTCL and NTISB were available at the back end of the system.
The Committee shared concerns relating to the capacity issues of the vendors, transparency, and for coping with the e-procurement requirements of the multilateral/ bilateral development partners.
It was suggested that there was a need to train the vendors, as well as, various tiers of government procuring agencies.
The MD, PPRA informed that for efficient roll-out and adaptation, a comprehensive training program was launched at the federal and provincial levels. For awareness and capacity building of suppliers, contractors and vendors, sessions were being conducted with facilitation by various Chambers of Commerce.
It was added that a significant number of government officials were already trained. Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested facilitating training at its Headquarters and the Pakistan Missions abroad.
PPRA committed to broaden the scope of training within Ministries/ Divisions and requested all Principal Accounting Officers/Secretaries of the Ministries/ Divisions to issue instructions to all procuring Agencies working under their administrative control to conduct procurement through EPADS.
It was further requested that the procuring agencies may forward nominations for training on EPADS to PPRA. MD, PPRA also requested support from the Ministry of IT in this regard.
After detailed discussion, the Secretaries Committee took the following decisions: (i) Annual Procurement Plan shall be prepared by each Ministry/ Division as a first step; and (ii) PPRA would contact all Ministries/ Divisions for training of officers and officials for better adoption of EPADS during government procurement.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023