Ambassador Stuart Jones Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Ministry of Planning’s Procurement Help Desk Opening Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sabah al Khier,

Your Excellency Salman al-Jumayli, Minister of Planning,

Thank you for those excellent remarks and thank you for your support to the USAID and embassy teams that have been working so closely with the Ministry of Planning.

I’m really honored and pleased to be here today with you. And, I’m delighted to celebrate the opening of the Procurement Help Desk; this, of course is a project of the Ministry of Planning in partnership with the U.S. Government.

Let me tell you about the way things used to be. Before this Help Desk, private contractors and government entities had no place to turn to for guidance on public procurement. Each ministry had its own specific methods of procurement. These processes were often confusing and opaque – and overwhelmed in red tape.

Let me share this one example. Previously, the Ministry of Electricity applied a complicated procurement process that required 28 steps, this involved more than 15 departments, and took 10 months, and this was for every tender to be prepared and awarded. International suppliers lost confidence in the procurement system and, as a result, spare parts were not delivered on time or were of inferior quality. Vital electricity projects were stalled.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Now, thanks to the Minister of Planning and his team, there are multiple layers of support for government procurers. The Help Desk provides a library of internationally accepted and common standard bidding documents for other ministries to use. Now, Ministry of Planning staff can ensure that all local and central government authorities apply international standards to contract tenders.

So, going back to the Ministry of Electricity; with support from the Help Desk, the Ministry of Electricity was able to cut out 23 of the 28 steps in its procurement process. Total procurement time went from 10 months to two months.

This is a game changer. It sends the message that the government of Iraq is a reliable partner, it sends the message that government bidders are going to get fair treatment, and it sends a message that projects are going to get completed in a speedy fashion.

Already now, 30 pilot tenders with 17 government institutions have benefited from the Help Desk.

Transparent procurement creates jobs. Transparent procurement means completion of priority capital investment projects. It means the infrastructure that Iraqi citizens need and use every day – roads, buildings, and power plants – can be contracted fairly and completed more quickly and delivered to higher standards.

This is exactly the kind of reform that his Excellency, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for. This is exactly the kind of reform that the people of Iraq want. The Help Desk is now fully in Iraqi hands. And, this is only the beginning of the quest to limit corruption and improve business and investment in Iraq.

So, your Excellency, I want to thank you for your leadership, for your guidance, for your energy behind this project. I want to thank the team here at the Ministry of Planning for guiding this, for driving this and I want to thank my colleagues at USAID and the Tarabot team for supporting the Ministry of Planning in achieving this objective.

Shokran Jazeelan.