The COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term implications for how governments think about procurement, according to a recent article published by business lawyers Torys LLP.
The article, “Rewiring the supply chain: how the pandemic is shaping government procurement,” was authored by Philip D. A. Symmonds, Thomas H. Yeo, Adam Banack, Eileen M. McMahon, and John A. Terry.
“An essential government activity that historically has rarely made front page news, government procurement has suddenly become a central focus for citizens around the world,” read the piece. “Starting in early 2020, countries raced to secure personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccines, therapeutics and other critical supplies.
“The crisis brought pressure to many of the long-standing presumptions underlying government procurement: the strong presumption in favour of competitive procurement and against sole source contracts; the presumption in favour of advance notice and of transparency in costing; and the built-in assumption that leverage would in most circumstances be with the government buyers and not with suppliers. All of these came under intense attack in the face of a life and death emergency where the rule book was being rewritten.
“The pandemic also exposed some weaknesses in Canada’s current procurement systems. In a recent report of Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission, it was noted that in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the province’s stockpile of emergency health supplies, amassed after SARS, had expired and been destroyed. One of the Commission’s recommendations was that Ontario should have a central procurement process for PPE and other necessary supplies that provides clarity about purchasing and supply chain legislation, policies and best practices. This is a logical recommendation, as competition for scarce supplies between front-line healthcare and long-term care facilities within Ontario amid a global pandemic is counterproductive, wasting precious time and resources.
“The procurement of vaccines and critical supplies was no easy feat during the pandemic. However, the achievement of the broader policy objectives for future government procurement will require careful planning within the context of Canada’s international trade commitments to ensure a thoughtful approach to procurement in the context of a global supply chain that is evolving in response to rapid and systemic disruption.”
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