Buy Local – And From Different Suppliers
Last week I was finally able to get out of Kabul to see how the project operates in our field offices. I spent some time on KAF talking with buyers and users of our Business Portal. A lot of pressure has come out in recent months about corruption in the contracting process, and buyers are keen to ensure that they are working with fresh, clean, capable Afghan companies that are not tied to malign actors. While this is certainly a valid concern, it presents one more hurdle that we have to jump when convincing actors to buy local.
Fortunately, there are several people out there who recognize that supporting the mission goes further than putting a KFC on the boardwalk or ensuring that good coffee is available 24/7. It means that in order to fulfill the mission goal of creating security, there needs to be a thriving economy that creates jobs and wealth. And the international community can have a role in shaping the private sector.
General Petraeus recently issued a set of guidelines that make COIN contracting a “commander’s business”. This entails not only ensuring that missions are buying local, but ensuring that they know who they’re buying from. As you might expect I could talk for hours about the dos and don’ts of buying local, but the latter aspect is equally as important. The money flowing in to the local economy from international buyers should be going to licit businesses that will in turn invest in their business and community. Contracts should be flowing to multiple businesses to build up local capabilities and expertise, instead of being awarded to the same companies every time (which, by the way, leads to local businesses assuming that there’s corruption in the contracting process at the buyer level).
Monitoring the contracts issued and the performance of the contractors they’re issued to is easier said than done. Nonetheless, this is an issue that’s on everyone’s radar, and buyers across the board are working on a common database where contractor information can be shared. For our part PDT will be able to use the information on past contract performance to better inform our knowledge of local businesses, and improve our matchmaking and business development services.
However, this is all a moot point if the buyers don’t provide feedback on the contracts they award. So, my call to all of the buyers out there is to further support your mission by supporting COIN contracting. Provide feedback on contracts you’ve issued so that (a) the suppliers can know what they’ve done right and wrong, (b) others can benefit from your experience, and (c) contracts can be distributed to clean and capable suppliers who are not linked with malign actors. If you don’t know where to provide feedback, PDT’s a good place to start! We collect any and all comments you have about contracts that have been performed with Afghan suppliers, and will be able to collate and share them for the larger international community to use.
So don’t just buy local – buy local from different suppliers. And tell us how they performed.