Supply chain stories

Organizing a national supply stakeholder meeting

UNICEF Supply - 2009

  • Programme Area: All

  • Supply Chain Segment(s):All

  • Country:Bangladesh

This was originally published as a lessons learned document by Samuel Ocran, then Chief, Supply and Procurement, Bangladesh: socran@unicef.org

Summary:  In Bangladesh, UNICEF delivers the Country Programme using the Government as the main implementing partner. The Country Programme is about $60 million per year and the procurement of goods and services accounts for over 60 per cent of this. Services and goods are delivered by the vendors including contractors, suppliers and NGOs, but apart from the official contractual agreements with these entities, there is no effective means of interaction where all the stakeholders come together to discuss issues of mutual concern and to find solutions. The Supply and Procurement Section organized a meeting of all the supply stakeholders, including UNICEF Programme staff, Government Project Directors, NGOs, suppliers and contractors. A total of 250 participants attended and a number of key issues were addressed, mainly under engaging suppliers as stakeholders in UNICEF programmes for children, and advocating re child labour and corporate social responsibility.

Lesson learned: The meeting is a good example of what can be done if we ‘unite for children’, by identifying and inviting all the stakeholders involved in procuring and delivering supplies and services for children. It is also a useful activity towards programme/supply integration.  The workshop gave all parties the opportunity to listen, and to understand the concerns of each other in a broader context that will eventually ensure a smooth supply chain synergy, better supply/programme and government integration.

It afforded UNICEF the opportunity to encourage the vendors including the NGOs to adopt the child labour code and practice some of the UNICEF programme initiatives such as hand washing, good sanitation, equal opportunity and non-discrimination of all workers at their workplaces.

UNICEF discussed with the vendors misunderstandings and misconceptions they had about UNICEF procurement procedures, recognised the key concerns they had, and responded by agreeing to create a supply page on the UNICEF Bangladesh Country Office (BCO) Internet site to disseminate information on potential contract opportunities.

At the end of the workshop, all stakeholders understood that they have a common interest to ensure the achievement of the core commitments towards the child, and that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved by any single stakeholder. Each stakeholder understood in broader terms the long term benefit of the interdependencies that exist among them. The vendors saw their relationships among the Government, NGOs and UNICEF in this spirit, agreed to work together as partners in an effective and efficient manner in the interest of the women and children in Bangladesh. This type of supply stakeholders meeting can be held in any UNICEF Country Office. In larger COs, it could be broken down by programme (e.g. Health). But the basic principle is the same, to get all the stakeholders to unite in pursuit of the common goal.

Issue:There were instances of delays in provision of supplies by the vendors to the programme sites and also in some cases the delivery of poor quality products.

Goods were sometimes delivered but the certification of receipt by the Project Director took time and delayed the payment to the vendors.

Instances of the blame game were common and whenever there was a problem, each stakeholder blamed the other.

Vendors did not seem to understand the effects of their actions or inactions when under contract for UNICEF programmes. The vendors viewed their relationship with UNICEF as mere suppliers of goods or services, and not as key actors in the drive to save or improve the lives of Bangladeshi children.

On an average a company in Bangladesh employs 500 people and most of the workers have 3 domestics workers at their homes. Most of these workers are poorly paid and also include children who have no opportunity to attend school. There are over 2 million child labourers in Bangladesh and most of them are engaged in hazardous work. Inspections at some of the vendors’ workplaces indicated that there is scope for improvement in the sanitary conditions of the workers and an opportunity to promote UNICEF programme initiatives there.

Strategy:  The Supply and Procurement Section discussed the issues with the Chief of Operations and obtained his endorsement to organize an event to bring together all the stakeholders: the Government, vendors including the NGOs, and UNICEF Programme and Supply sections.  Senior management and the CMT endorsed the idea to use such an event to orientate the vendors on BCO programmes and to highlight the important role the vendors play in the achievement of UNICEF objectives and the MDGs. In the long term, UNICEF intends to use the local government mechanisms and its Field Offices to form active partnerships at the grass roots where UNICEF projects are implemented for the effective programme implementation and monitoring of results for children.

Progress and Results:  The event was held in a Dhaka hotel on 17 June 2009 and was attended by 250 participants, including: the Project Directors from all the ministries where UNICEF has programme interventions, the Directors and managers of NGOs, vendor representatives, and Section Chiefs of UNICEF Programme and Operation cluster sections.

The Representative, the Deputy Representative and the Chief of Operations delivered presentations. There were also presentations from the Child Protection, Programme Communications and Education Sections on issues of child labour and corporate social responsibility such as pertain to the Global Compact and national and international legislation. There was an opportunity for the participants to contribute towards the Education Section’s Child Livelihood Project for street children.

A total of 98 suppliers signed up with UNICEF to develop a child labour code and also participate in the Child Livelihood Apprenticeship scheme.

Additionally, the suppliers now have a better idea of how their actions have implications for UNICEF-sponsored programmes, e.g. how the failure to meet delivery dates for education materials can impact on the quality of the child’s education.

On the other hand, Government Project Directors also learned that the delay of payment for supplies or services affects the next delivery from the same suppliers, which need a regular cash flow to trade effectively.

Vendors were oriented on UNICEF procurement procedures and UNICEF and other stakeholders were able to listen and learn from the vendors experiences in dealing with UNICEF.

The number and length of delays in deliveries of programme supplies have been reduced. This is due to better coordination among all the stakeholders; government, suppliers and UNICEF (Programme and Supply). Receipts of goods and invoice certifications have improved considerably. The Government Project Directors have started to educate their employees on the need to adopt a partnership approach towards the suppliers and NGOs whenever they deal with them by sharing information to facilitate their work. Following the national stakeholder meeting, the Government Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) has organised a similar meeting with NGOs implementing UNICEF sponsored WES projects to share information and address specific issues in the sector.

The meeting has also strengthened Programme/Supply integration. Programme and Supply section focal persons now meet regularly each month to review programme requirements, supply status and where possible attend meetings together with the Government. This helps the Supply Section to be involved in programme planning from the beginning.  Supply and Programme (Child Protection) are working together with some 100 vendors on developing child labour policies and codes of conducts.

For a full report see Annex 01.

Next steps:  UNICEF Bangladesh will now organize focus meetings with the vendors to advance the decisions made during the meeting, especially the development of the child labour code, and to work out the modalities of the stakeholders’ contributions towards the Child Livelihood Apprenticeship Scheme.

Recommendations will be shared with all stakeholders and implementation timelines agreed. Progress will then be monitored accordingly.

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