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Commonly Identified Characteristics of Effective Procurement Systems

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B-281996
Background
Each organization within the U.N. system, such as the World Health
Organization and the United Nations Development Program, procures
goods and services in accordance with its own financial rules and
regulations and procurement procedures. (See app. II for a diagram of the
U.N. system.) More than 30 procurement offices procure approximately
$2.9 billion of goods and services for these organizations annually.
Procurements by the U.N. Secretariat are conducted by its Procurement
Division, which in 1997 procured $310 million of goods and services while
peacekeeping and other field missions procured about $120 million.
Commonly Identified
Several organizations have identified characteristics of an effective
procurement system. For example, the U.N. system organizations
Characteristics of Effective
identified such characteristics, which were published by the U.N.'s
Procurement Systems
Interagency Procurement Services Office (IAPSO)2 in The Common
Guidelines for Procurement by U.N. Organizations. This publication states
that the objective of procurement within the U.N. system is the timely
acquisition of goods, works, and services while addressing (1) the objective
of the U.N. organization concerned; (2) fairness, integrity, and transparency
through competition; and (3) economy, effectiveness, and best value for
money. The guidelines were intended to communicate basic principles for
procurement by U.N. organizations and harmonize U.N. system
procurement procedures. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) identified similar characteristics for an effective
public procurement system.3 Its December 1997 policy brief states that a
public procurement system should, among other things, (1) employ open
competition; (2) ensure that the selection of bidders, tendering procedures,
and the awarding of contracts are open to public examination and scrutiny
by external audit authorities; (3) incorporate a legal and administrative
framework that defines the financial and legal responsibilities of all
2IAPSO
is an office under the oversight of the U.N. Development Program's executive board and is
funded by the development program and by the procurement services it offers. IAPSO's mandates are
to conduct research and development activities in the area of procurement for U.N. organizations and
to provide a wide range of procurement services, including advisory services on procurement, direct
procurement, and procurement training for U.N. member states and organizations.
3
Support for Improvement in Governance and Management Policy Brief 3: Public Procurement (Paris,
France: OECD, Dec. 1997). This publication is the result of an ongoing joint initiative of the OECD
Center for Cooperation with Economies in Transition and the European Union's PHARE Program. The
OECD is a forum of industrialized democracies that studies and formulates policies in all economic and
social spheres.
Page 3
GAO/NSIAD-99-71 United Nations

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