Public Procurement Principles and Practices

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NIPG logoOn March 13, 2012, the City of Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted (by Resolution No. 2012-15) the Values and Guiding Principles of the Public Procurement Profession.

As part of its vision to help create a world in which public procurement practitioners are highly regarded members of a respected professional order, the Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP) has embarked on the development of Public Procurement Principles and Practices.

For more information on the Public Procurement Principles and Practices, please visit the NIGP web page dedicated to this subject

In August 2009, the Board of Directors of NIGP adopted its 2009-2012 Strategic Plan with a primary objective to gain recognition of public procurement as a profession by developing guiding principles for public procurement. To this end, the 2010 president of NIGP appointed a task force to develop the guiding principles and related descriptions that will underpin the future development of standards of practice through collaboration with key stakeholders. After considerable discussion and debate, the Task Force identified three pillars by which the Values of Public Procurement should be directed:

• public trust;
• public service; and
• justice.

Understanding that these pillars may not be applicable across all governments, but that they serve the basis for democratic governance, these pillars were adopted as the basis for which the subsequent values and principles are to serve. The Task Force then looked at statements by 45 countries and organizations around the world to ascertain common public procurement values and principles, and the various concepts were considered against the identified pillars to determine the fit within this basic foundation. In October 2010, the Values and Guiding Principles were finalized and adopted by the NIGP Board of Directors. From that point forward the Values and Guiding Principles began to be adopted by many stakeholder organizations and work on Public Procurement Practices began. In August 2011, NIGP announced a formal partnership with the UK-based Chartered Institute for Purchasing and Supply (CIPS). The partnership officially took the Principles & Practices Project global, and both NIGP and CIPS are working together to achieve a set of Public Procurement Principles & Practices that will set the standard for the public procurement profession around the world.

According to NIGP:

Values are enduring beliefs or ideals shared by public procurement and our stakeholders about what is and what is not good or appropriate in our actions. Values exert major influence on the behavior of an individual and serve as broad guidelines. We depend on values to construct the frameworks of our professional lives. Values influence how we make choices, what choices we make, and how we are to be judged on our actions by the stakeholders. The Values, listed in alphabetical order, are:

ACCOUNTABILITY: Taking ownership and being responsible to all stakeholders for our actions. This value is essential to preserve the public trust and protect the public interest.
IMPARTIALITY: Unbiased decision making and actions. This value is essential to ensure fairness for the public good.
ETHICS: Doing the right thing. This value is essential to deserve the public’s trust.
PROFESSIONALISM: Upholding high technical and ethical standards. This value is essential to balance diverse public interests.
SERVICE: Obligation to assist stakeholders. This value is essential to support the public good.
TRANSPARENCY: Easily accessible and understandable policies and processes. This value is essential to demonstrate responsible use of public funds.

Guiding Principles establish the fundamental norms, rules, or ethics that represent what is desirable (values) and affirmative for our profession and help us determine the rightfulness or wrongfulness of our actions. Principles are more explicit than values, and are meant to govern action.

There are a few basic assumptions concerning the Guiding Principles: 

    • The principles are broadly intended to cover all levels and variations of public sector procurement. However, some practitioners will work in contexts in which following a particular Guiding Principle cannot be done for good reason. The Guiding Principles are not intended to constrain such practitioners when this is the case. However, such exceptions should be made for good reason (e.g., legal prohibitions against certain actions), and public sector procurement professionals who find themselves in such contexts are encouraged to consult colleagues about how to proceed. 
    • The principles are intended to guide the professional practice of public procurement, and to inform procurement stakeholders (elected officials, managers, citizens, etc.) about the principles they can expect to be upheld by public procurement professionals. Of course, no statement of principles can anticipate all situations that arise in the practice of public procurement. However, principles are not just guidelines for action when something goes wrong or when a dilemma is found. Rather, principles should proactively guide the behaviors of professionals in everyday practice. 
    • The principles are not independent, but overlap in many ways. Conversely, sometimes these principles will conflict, so that public procurement professionals will have to choose among them. At such times, public procurement professionals must use their judgment and knowledge of the setting to determine the appropriate response. Whenever a course of action is unclear, these individuals are encouraged to solicit the advice of fellow procurement professionals about how to resolve the problem before deciding how to proceed. 
    • These principles are intended to set the standard of practice for all public sector procurement professionals. These principles, however, are not intended to replace standards supported by other disciplines in which procurement professionals participate. 
    • These principles were developed in the context of North American cultures, particularly the United States, and so may reflect the experiences of that context. The relevance of these principles may vary across other cultures, and across subcultures within the United States. 
    • These principles are part of an evolving process of self-examination by the profession. These principles should be revisited and examined for possible review and revision on a regular basis – at least every three years.