[Report webinar #7] Public procurement: for an efficient purchase of urban bus

CODATU News Thursday 7 March 2019

Report of the 7th webinar of the « Community of Practice on Sustainable Urban Transport in the Mediterranean » organised by CODATU and CMI on 15 and 31 January 2019. This community of practice – led by CODATU – aims to promote the sharing of knowledge in the field of sustainable urban mobility in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

The webinar was an opportunity to discuss public procurement challenges. The webinar speakers focused on clarification of requirements, on accessibility and market intelligence and transparent and specific contractualisation.

Listeners were able to speak with Michel Tindano, Secretary General of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport of Togo and CEO of SOTRAL (the transport society of Lome, Togo) in the first session and then with Marc Delayer, President of the Central Purchasing Public Transport (CATP).

Part I: bus procurement in Lomé: experience and lessons

In his intervention, Michel Tindano told about issues that the SOTRAL faced in previous bus acquisitions and how it can be used to anticipate future procurements.

Maintenance challenges in the purchase of new equipment or in donations of second hand equipment

In 2006-2007, because of a lack of financing, the Lomé City Council had been given about twenty buses by the SYTRAL (the Public Transport Authority in Lyon). Buses were put into operation on an experimental line. The difficulties arose with the maintenance, where the management was delegated to a third party at the time: the public authorities had little control over the repair of equipment that was stored in private depots. Security and degradation problems could occur without being able to act quickly.

In 2012, external consultants and public funds were allocated by the government to the acquisition of 45 new vehicles produced in China. After five years of use, buses showed their limits as the technical characteristics desired have never been specified. Moreover, communication with the manufacturer was not easy: no information regarding guarantees was available and it was difficult to obtain administrative certificates to validate various administrative and accounting procedures.

Furthermore, the spare parts supply circuit was not precisely specified. Catalogs were received in Chinese, spare parts delivered after translation were unsuitable…

Spare parts supply issues re-emerged after a second SYTRAL donation in 2015. Spare parts for the given equipment were no longer produced. It created extra difficulties for the maintenance.

Defining an acquisition framework that matches local needs 

These experiences highlight some recommendations to follow for acquisitions which must be carefully managed:

  • What do we need? For the first acquisition, the experience of local paratransit stakeholders or transport operators can help to define the best equipment adapted to the local context
  • What technical specificities? Type of engine, suspensions, the capacity of the vehicle or ground clearance… it is always necessary to return to what is available on the market and in adequacy with what is in the country (the type of fuel, the morphology of the road network, quality of infrastructures … etc.)
  • Technical specificities are important in the large components as well as in the details (windows, access to people with reduced mobility, gearbox …)
  • Availability and qualification of technicians for the maintenance of equipment acquired. The short training sessions offered by the manufacturers are not enough.
  • Definition of the financial and physical circuit of spare parts by identifying the time of the payment and delivery procedures. Clear catalogs, translated into a local language and ideally a focal point or dealer nearby to have a person to refer to.

Finally, the political decision is sometimes dependent on the urgency or the desirability of the situation, and operations do not take into account the elements mentioned above. It is important to emphasize that the respect of the specifications can avoid malfunctions, and even if the operations are donations, this does not prevent to respect the norms and internal laws as well as the setting conditions to these acquisitions.

Part II: drawing up specifications that are precise and complete

In the webinar second session, Marc Delayer, President of the CATP presents a methodological approach on the elements to be taken into account for the drafting of specifications and the prerequisites for its construction.

1.Identifying needs as a prerequisite for any operation

Whether it is for the purchase of new vehicles, second-hand vehicles or donation operations, defining requirements is a prerequisite for any transaction. This step may seem obvious but is sometimes overlooked.

The definition involves answering a number of questions about the type of vehicle, the context of its transaction and the purpose of the transaction. Thus, minibus or articulated vehicles acquisitions address different needs, whether the operation is internal or delegated, or whether it is for a new network or an existing network. In addition, the regulatory framework is also to be taken into consideration to make sure the vehicles respect the local norms (the type of motorization, pollution … etc.) or if adaptations will be necessary.

Finally, needs also include complementary equipment issues such as ticketing and traveler information: in the case of a separate purchase with additional consultation, predispositions can be anticipated. In some cases, separate consultation avoids reliance on a single supplier.

2. Monitoring the market conditions 

It is thus essential to monitor and analyze market conditions. It involves a listing of the type of equipment available locally or easily accessible.

It is important to base on what exists and is available to avoid wasting time in the definition of a material difficult to find or that will be longer and more complicated to acquire. It allows also to establish contact with manufacturers who will thus be ready to respond quickly to future consultations.

3. Technical specifications

Defining needs and monitoring the market is essential to draw up suitable, realistic and practical specifications. Specifications define the desired vehicles and are the basis of the contractual commitment with the manufacturer.

Specifications include a number of items and features on the vehicle components such as dimensions, weight, engine, gearbox, suspensions, braking, tires, bodywork, heating and air conditioning, accessibility to people of reduced mobility, etc. Each item must be reflected in relation to the needs, means, and conditions of operation and maintenance. In addition, this reflection is to be shared with all the stakeholders involved, such as operating officers, study and planning officers, local authorities, maintenance staff, etc.

4. Complementary elements

In addition to the vehicle description, specifications include contractual information that guarantees the transparency of the relationship with the manufacturer and the detailed price with guarantees, maintenance and service plans, and especially spare parts supply circuits. Specifications list also the commitments to comply with local standards and to offer the expected consumption performance.

5. Competition

Last element, the identification of the legal, regulatory and administrative frameworks of the competition. The consultation, rating and attribution rules must be clear to ensure transparency in the bus acquisition procedure and to give the builder better visibility on elements that mean the most to the client. They also make it possible to clarify the conditions of attribution, purchase of delivery throughout the procedure.

6. Transactions through a central purchasing department

Having the support of a reference actor for this type of procedure makes it possible to optimize the results in three aspects:

  • technically: the purchasing group network provide a significant amount of feedbacks and references on approved equipment
  • legally: the procedure is clearly defined, transparent and the risk is lower because transferred to the central
  • economically: the various operations carried out by the central purchasing department allow the achievement of economies of scale in addition to the efficient approach adopted.

For more information:

Soon will be released on CODATU website a guide for « Succeeding the purchase and the exploitation of buses in Africa », an operational manual bus acquisition project in Africa, co-written by CODATU members: operators, consulting firms, manufacturers, transport authorities, etc, stay tuned!