E-Tendering - more business transparency to procurement processes
By Jim Leung Chee Thursday, September 20 2012
TSTT Head Purchasing and Supply and Secretary Tender’s Committee
BUSINESS transparency or lack of it almost always causes loss of confidence and harm to a company, its eco-system of vendors, its customers and ultimately taxpayers. Confidence of vendors who supply an organisation like TSTT with services is a critical part to getting value for money that consumers ultimately enjoy.
Lack of confidence brought on by no transparency drives up costs, according to some international estimates, by as much as 35 percent to 55 percent.
While there is no question that TSTT’s procurement process has been validated as sound, the company is not resting on its laurels and has embarked on a bold initiative to help revolutionise not only its own procurement processes but potentially that of hundreds of other companies and state agencies.
Harnessing the strengths of the technology that is TSTT’s stock-in-trade, the company is developing a secure 24/7 online procurement and tendering website that will enable TSTT suppliers to easily review available tenders and submit bids online. TSTT “E-Tender” service will eventually also allow other companies to get the cost-saving benefit of using the system to place their own tenders to solicit bids for projects in their respective organisations.
The genesis of the project was due in part to the desire stated by the board and management at TSTT, of wanting to improve the tender process, increase visibility, transparency and participation, move to a paperless environment and move the company’s procurement to the leading edge of technology.
On average, over the past three years, TSTT has processed over TT$3 billion in Tenders in a quasi manual process.
The new E-Tender site allows for the online distribution of tenders and the digitally secure administration of the procurement process via the World Wide Web. The immediate benefits to TSTT include: (i) Reduced processing time (eg. time to collate and distribute tenders) (ii) Reduced paper use as there is no need for volumes of RFQ (Request For Quotation) documents (iii) Improved record keeping with digital aggregation and storage of tenders from cradle to grave (iv) Improved visibility and transparency — also eliminating geographic disadvantages and (v) Optimised advertising expenditure and effectiveness.
Ultimately therefore, these cost savings help the company compete more effectively and help keep its costs to customers down.
This locally developed application will bring the best-in-class procurement techniques such as reverse auctions to local and regional businesses. In a reverse auction, a buyer allows suppliers a short window of time to bid down the price on their products or services that the buyer is interested in acquiring.
In the past this technology would be out of reach for many businesses due to high start up fees charged by the global providers.
As TSTT opens the site to sellers and buyers, the potential for a digital business-to-business (B2B) marketplace born in Trinidad and Tobago becomes a real possibility.
This innovation has other practical benefits for example, potential bidders will not have a geographic disadvantage since reviewing tenders, submitting bids and making payments are all done online from the convenience of their own offices or anywhere there is an internet connection.
In the future as TSTT engages more clients from a ‘buyer’ perspective and with more sellers logging on, the site could evolve into a digital marketplace. Sellers would then pay a fee to participate and bid on a variety of tenders. Buyers would also be encouraged to utilise the service.
Regional, local and international buyers and suppliers can then utilise the site for B2B trade and elevate TT as a model destination for hassle free transparent tendering. Considering TT’s 2011 GDP was estimated by the World Bank at US $22.48 billion, there is an enormous amount of potential cost savings to be realised from such an E-Tender application being deployed across private and public sector organisations.