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Jarrod Stevens | 07 Feb 2022 | 6 min read
How Software Can Help with Probity in Procurement
Probity in procurement seems simple enough on paper: all you need to do is provide evidence of ethical conduct. However, if your existing procurement process involves a lot of manual handling, actually capturing this proof can be challenging.
In this blog article, we’ll discuss how software can help you meet these requirements, all without making life harder for your staff.
Keeping a Full Audit Trail
When you’re using multiple systems or handling things manually, there can be gaps in your audit trail. Important correspondence can be hidden in emails or folders, undermining the transparency of the whole process. Even if all the data is there, pulling up a complete report on a procurement event can be cumbersome.
This issue can be solved by using a single, secure platform for your procurement activities. Along with many other benefits, this provides you with a full, unbroken audit trail since everything is conducted within the same system, from the initial planning stages all the way to closing the contract and managing it through to renewal.
Pulling up a report is easy, and also allows you to view buyer and supplier behaviour. These insights allow you to spot opportunities to add value, deliver improved service in your organisation, or support broad business goals.
Compliance by Default
Let’s face it, staff don’t want to think about probity and meeting compliance requirements. And you know what? For the most part, they shouldn’t have to.
Many organisations are shifting to a stealth-based approach to compliance, also known as “compliance by default.” With this approach, software is used to guide staff through the procurement journey. Every possible pathway they can take is set up to reflect organisational policy. This allows staff to focus on getting better outcomes, secure in the knowledge the compliance aspect is being managed. This approach directly applies to probity, as many of these steps help ensure staff act in an ethical way during the procurement process.
Below are four examples of procurement software features that support “compliance by default”.
1. Policy Guidance
“Which policy should I follow?” “Where can I find the policy document?” Hands up if you’ve heard a staff member ask these sorts of questions before!
While easy to answer, each of these queries sucks up time that could be directed towards other, more strategic tasks. However, there’s an even worse-case scenario: staff don’t ask and either follow the wrong policy, or none at all. It’s no secret that policy compliance is a real headache.
So, how do you solve this? The simplest approach is to use a policy guide solution.
If you’re not familiar with them, this type of solution asks the buyer some simple questions upfront, like “What’s the cost bracket for your procurement?” or “What is the risk level involved with this procurement event?” These questions are examples – the number and type of questions can be customised by your organisation.
After the staff answer these questions, they are directed to the right procurement plan based on what they entered, and told what next steps look like. It’s simple, swift, and makes things easier for everyone involved.
An interactive policy guide is a must-have for any organisation with a decentralised or centre-led procurement environment, since it makes sure staff use the correct procurement policy, even when a procurement team member is not available to help.
2. Procurement Planning
When it comes to procurement, planning is essential. Not only does it help make sure the procurement event is successful, it also helps with probity: both in meeting your requirements and avoiding a probity breach.
If you think about it, once an incident occurs – for example, a breach of confidentiality – you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Everything after this point is damage control. That’s why it’s important to plan for how you’re going to ensure probity ahead of time, including identifying risks and handling them.
Again, if you’re operating in a decentralised or centre-led procurement environment, there’s a lot of room for human error – not everyone is an expert in procurement planning. On top of this, if you’re using a manual process, the chance for a vital step to be missed (like getting appropriate sign offs) is exponentially greater.
So how do you make sure staff plan their procurement events properly, including ticking all the boxes for your probity requirements?
This is where procurement planning software comes in. Much like a policy guide, it directs staff through a step-by-step workflow and asks a series of questions. And again, the questions are customisable based on your organisational policy.
However, the big difference that a procurement planning solution will guide staff through the planning process from end-to-end. It makes sure staff perform every task that needs to happen, including those needed to achieve probity, such as:
- Declaring conflicts of interest
- Reaching out to key parties for approval and relevant information
- Logging who made decisions and when
- Performing an upfront risk assessment, including assigning a risk-owner and how the risk will be managed.
Since the workflow is set up ahead of time according to best practice and proper policy, this ensures “compliance by default”. It is also easy for staff to follow, making for a more enjoyable experience. And as most people know, the less difficult a process is, the more likely staff are to follow it.
As a (not so small) added benefit, a procurement planning solution also helps with cost reduction, speedy delivery, and meeting stakeholder needs. To learn about all of these benefits, read: “How The Right Software Can Improve Your Procurement Planning.”
3. Go To Market
Remember how we mentioned having an unbroken audit trail? This is very important when it comes to proving you went to market in a fair and transparent way.
If you’re using dedicated procurement software like VendorPanel, you can gain complete visibility of the full sourcing process across all buyers. The system captures this data automatically, meaning staff don’t have to remember to store it in preparation for an audit.
This gets around one of the bigger problems when it comes to audits: that few people worry about it until it’s actually happening, and by then it’s too late!
4. Evaluation and Award
Since this is one of the most sensitive stages of the procurement process, it’s also the one where you want to demonstrate everything took place in an ethical fashion.
There are a number of safeguards that procurement software can offer at this stage, such as ensuring the process is “locked” until all bids are equally considered. Just like the previous features we mentioned, the procurement team has full visibility of buyers’ and evaluators’ actions and a complete audit trail.
This is an important tool in your arsenal. Having an auditable tender evaluation and award system with coded-in compliance was listed as one of the primary ways to combat fraud and corruption in 2022.
5. Contract Management
As mentioned earlier, manual processes leave a lot to be desired when it comes to visibility, tracking and avoiding human error. This is especially true when it comes to contract management.
With contract management software (CMS), checks and balances can be built in, and everything can be logged. Contracts are also easily accessible if people need to find it.
To learn about all the benefits CMS can provide, read: “The Ultimate Guide to Contract Management Software.”
Want to Make Probity Easy? Use VendorPanel
VendorPanel is a Source-to-Pay platform that can help you achieve “compliance by default” so staff can focus on what really matters. Contact us today to learn about the solutions we have on offer to help you meet your probity requirements.
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