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The words purchase and procure are frequently used interchangeably; while common using the two words interchangeably is not necessarily accurate. Purchasing is just a part of the procurement process, an important one, but only the specific function associated with the actual buying of goods and services from suppliers.  For the sake of this guide, procurement and purchasing will be differentiated along these lines. 

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Procurement Principles in the Humanitarian Context

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  1. Sourcing and Identifying Vendors
  2. Product/Service Requisition 
  3. Solicitation 
  4. Evaluating and Awarding
  5. Ordering and Contracting
  6. Reception and Payment 


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Sourcing and Identifying Vendors  

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Sometimes it is difficult to get an idea of ​​a supplier only through official bid documents. Purchases may want to visit the suppliers in their workplace, especially when agencies intend to start a lasting relationship with a given supplier. Do not underestimate the power of an in-person conversation, or the details that can be learned by knowing their facilities.

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Helpful steps to follow:

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Supplier management is a set of principles, processes, and tools that can help organisations maximise supplier relationships, minimise risks, and manage overheads throughout the entire relationship life-cycle. Active supplier management entails creating closer and more collaborative relationships with key suppliers to achieve greater value and reduce risks.

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It is important to know specifications of the products or services required, the legal framework for their acquisition and their availability in the market. Not taking these three concepts into account increases the risk of not finding required items, procuring incorrect items, or not respecting local norms and behaviours when purchasing them.

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Related to Personnel

  • Manipulation of the evaluation criteria after the opening of the tender.
  • Contracts awarded by single source or non-competitive process.
  • Requirements defined in a way that only a specific manufacturer or supplier can meet.
  • Multiple purchase requests started in close proximity for similar requirements to avoid boundaries threshold.
  • A staff member does not separate duties.
  • Excessively narrow or wide specifications.
  • Officials do not delegate their responsibilities or they refuse to go on vacation.
  • There is no clear information on the presentation of offers.
  • Inadequate documentation (no PR, OC, CBA and GRN).
  • Overly friendly relationship between a provider and any persons conducting procurement.
  • Unusually high exemption rate.
  • Tender announcements scheduled to match with holidays.

Templates and Tools

TEMPLATE - Purchase Request

TEMPLATE - Bid Matrix

TEMPLATE - Purchase Order

TEMPLATE - Purchase RequisitionTender Report

TEMPLATE - Supplier List

Full Template Package

Sites and Resources

  • Sphere Project, Handbook (2018)
  • International Review of the Red Cross (2016). Principles guiding humanitarian action.
  • CALP The Cash Learning Partnership (2018). Minimum Standards for Market Analysis (MISMA)
  • ECHO, European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (June 2019). Guidelines grant/contribution agreement with humanitarian organisations
  • ECHO, European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (May 2020). Framework partnership agreement with humanitarian organisations
    • ANNEX III; General Conditions
    • ANNEX IV; Rules and procedures applicable to Property, Supply, Works and Service Contracts Awarded within the Framework of Humanitarian Actions Finance by the European Communities
  • ICRC, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (2014). Market Analysis Guidance
  • ICRC, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (2014). Rapid Assessment for Markets
  • WFP, World Food Programme, (2020). Goods and Services Procurement Manual
  • SC, Save The Children; Procurement guidelines
  • ACF, Action Against Hunger; Supply Chain guidelines
  • PARCEL Project 
  • Humanitarian Logistics Association (HLA) 
  • Core Humanitarian Standard 
  • Universal Logistics Standards in Humanitarian Logistics (ULS) 

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