The objective of procurement activities is the timely acquisition of the right essential RMNCH medicines, devices and equipment through a competitive process, following the principles of fairness, integrity and transparency, economy and effectiveness, and best value for money.
Essential reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health commodity procurement is a relatively complex set of tasks, involving defining specifications for each product to be procured, estimating the quantity of each product required, and managing the financial transaction between the government and the vendor or procurement agent. Completing a typical public-sector procurement cycle can often take between 12 and 18 months. Procurement also requires human resource capacity to prepare bidding documents, evaluate bids, select suppliers, and award contracts. Unlike for the private sector, in which organizations have more flexible procurement processes, purchasing for the public sector is generally highly regulated, with the size of the procurement affecting the degree of competition in the bidding process. For most governments, the competition increases as the value of the procurement increases.
It is crucial that RMNCH commodities which are procured are of high quality. A robust quality assurance (QA) system ensures the efficacy and safety of essential RMNCH medicines and supplies. The lack of an effective QA system poses numerous concerns for health care providers, including:
- compromised product quality, from counterfeit or expired products to lack of dosage uniformity and inappropriate labelling and packaging;
- poor warehouse practices that can lead to product waste, damage, expiration, diversion and inability to control inventory;
- differences in climatic conditions in warehouses or during distribution that can cause products to spoil.
A functioning QA system also improves supply chain processes and effectiveness.