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Women Participation in Contracting.

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Women participation in open contracting can empower women to transform their economies during and after COVID19 Pandemic. Women too should have access to government contracts in Nigeria to cushion the economic downturn and recession created by the current global pandemic.
For any country to achieve sustainable development goal and fast socio - economic recovery, women must and should be allowed to participate and ensure accountability and transparency in open government contracts. This would help in no small measure to end poverty, protect the planet, ensure good health and prosperity for everyone in this era of pandemic,
                But achieving these goals depends on closing the gender gap in the procurement sector experienced by Nigerians women. It also depends on opportunity given to women and girls in our societies and economies. Research and experience reveals that these gaps exist in every ministry of the federation where contracts are monopoly of only men.
                We all agree and can testify that investing in women is not only key to meeting development targets but it also makes economic sense. Women in their motherly nature reinvest up to 90% of their earnings back into their families and communities (compared to men who reinvest 30-40%) according to world bank and Stephanie Muchai  (Hivos East Africa’s country engagement development for Kenya and Tanzania, contribution to the recent high level political forum on sustainable development goals at the united nations headquarters in new York).
                Public procurement seems to be one of the ways to empowering women financially. Unfortunately, some factors undermines this in such a way that women are excluded from doing business with government. Women are frustrated out of accessing contracts due to high demands expected of them. According to a report by international trade Centre, these include lack of:
  • Access to information bids
  • Ability to meet requirements
  • Understanding the procurement
  • Education
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Open contract according to Stephanie can help address the issues of breaking down barriers to gender and economic equality in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general and the world at large. Therefore, women, too should have access to government contracts. The ways open contracting can support more inclusive public procurement include:
  1. Support for authenticity: the open contracting approach seeks disclosure of the procurement process night from the planning phase, to the tender and award of the contract, as well as monitoring and evaluation of implementation. This data gives insights into the eligibility requirement for a woman-owned/run business and beneficial owners of the business. This is critical in stopping fraudulent practices such as “tokenism” and “fronting”/”bribe” by non-eligible parties.
  2. Open contracting data can promote understanding of market demographics and the capacity of women, their understanding of bids and procedures and ability to meet requirements.
  3. It is a baseline for impact and progress of public procurement affirmative action initiatives and laws can be established through use of open contracting data. This will ensure preferential procurement regulations that will overcome barriers encountered by small business and marginalized groups such as women and people with disabilities in doing business with the government.
Nigeria can borrow a leaf from Kenya where in 2013, Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) was amended and adopted to reserve 30% of all public procurement for small businesses owned by women, youths and persons with disabilities. To qualify, a company must have at least 70% membership of youth, women or persons with disabilities. Leadership of such company shall be 100% youth, women and persons with disabilities. A task force will be set up to enforce its implementation and monitoring to ensure its success.
  • Open contracting data can help to identify and address issues affecting access and participation in public procurement by women. In Nigeria, you all know that men dominate the contracting sector. Male-owned businesses participation in government contracting is much higher than women –owned business. Only a meager percentage of government vendors are owned by women.
Barriers to participate in contracting are:
  • Too many regulations
  • A confusing and troublesome e-procurement system
  • Confusing regulations
  • Corruption
  • Collusion
  • Nepotism
  • High cost of renewal of required documents such as tax, certificate of registration with CAC, VAT, bill of quantities, article of agreement.
  • Initiated access to information (research on gender and procurement)
 Public procurement is subject to:
  • Mismanagement
  • Poor planning
  • Fraud and corruption
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These last three reinforces women’s social and economic marginalization by diverting resources meant for public services while also imposing informal “fees” for services.
        Fortunately, open contracting is a means of curbing these ills through disclosure, participation and accountability. Public contracting can help government create a better business environment, stimulate innovation, increase savings on public spending, gain better value for money for citizens and encourage more women participation and inclusiveness.

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