M Siboonde, M Musumali, A Sikazwe, J Mufunda
Background: The WHO has standard operating procedures for procurement, travel and logistics for use at country level. Some of the guidance is waived during public health emergencies of international concern. Practical acumen on using the standards for emergency settings is limited at country level. WHO Zambia was one of the countries that responded to the call by WHO HQ to support the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This paper aims to document lessons learnt by procurement staffs that were deployed to emergency settings.
Methods: Desk review of documents on procurement during emergency settings, terms of reference of the mission, materials on prevention of getting infected by Ebola and general rules governing international deployment were analysed. The staff member was deployed for the duration of eight weeks in 2015 from where experiences gained were reviewed and systematically recorded.
Results: Deployment and exposure to an emergency setting was the first such experience to WCO Zambia staff. During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone there was the “no touch person” practice from inherent profound fear of contracting the deadly disease. While the job description was similar with what was prevailing in non- emergency setting in Zambia, the quantities and implementation speed on assignments on average were more than ten times on emergencies. In that environment the procedure for procurement involved Invitation to Bid and Request for Proposal to interested parties occurring at the same time which is done differently from normal situations where there is first a request for quotations and procurement committee deliberate before making selection. In the Ebola set-up, there is a waiver of the competitive bidding requirements.
Discussion: The exposure of WCO staff to emergency setting allowed WCO staff to be more knowledgeable about preparation and award contract using additional procurement methods in compliance with WHO policies as adopted for emergencies.
Conclusion: Secondment of staff to a setting of emergencies is beneficial to WCO staff in terms of capacity building and handling similar situations in future. Country Offices are encouraged in future to share human resources when situations dictate.