Strategic contracting practices to improve procurement of health commodities.
Public-sector entities responsible for procurement of essential medicines and health commodities in developing countries often lack the technical capacity to efficiently ensure supply security. Under strict public scrutiny and pressures to be transparent, many agencies continue to use archaic procurement methods and to depend on inflexible forecasts and cumbersome tendering processes. On the basis of semi-structured literature reviews and interviews, we identified framework agreements as a strategic procurement practice used by the U.S. federal government that may also be suitable for global health supply chains. Framework agreements are long-term contracts that provide the terms and conditions under which smaller repeat purchasing orders may be issued for a defined period of time. Such agreements are common in U.S. and United Nations procurement systems and in other developed countries and multilateral organizations. In contrast, framework agreements appear to be seldom used in procurement of health commodities in countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The current practice of floating tenders multiple times a year contributes to long lead times and stock-outs, and it hampers the manufacturer’s or supplier’s ability to plan and respond to the government’s needs. To date, government’s use of strategic contracting practices in public procurement of health commodities has not received much attention in most developing countries. It may present an opportunity for substantial improvements in procurement efficiency and commodity availability. Enabling legislation and strengthened technical capacity to develop and manage long-term contracts could facilitate the use of framework contracts in sub-Saharan Africa, with improved supply security and cost savings likely to result.