In general, the procurement policy describes the method or rules by which public sector institutions procure goods and services from the private sector. Essentially, it means setting up a fair system of adjudicating between the many competing bids received from consultants, suppliers, service providers and contractors. As tax is essential for all governments, every country's procurement policy insists that all individuals or companies submitting bids must be fully up-to-date with their tax payments. There is thus usually a requirement for tax clearance certificates to be submitted with each bid.
In order to bid successfully for government work, it is necessary for consultants or contractors to consider the procurement policy and system in the particular country where the tender is published. Unless the bid conforms to that government's procurement policy requirements, it might not even be accepted by the authority calling for tenders, let alone stand any chance of winning. Broadly speaking, the colonial history of the countries of Africa has resulted in procurement policies that aim to redress the past practice of exploiting the indigenous population. This means that, in the procurement of work by government, certain groups or categories of people are favoured. However, to marry an equitable, just system with one that favours certain segments of the population is an exercise fraught with contradictions. Most procurement policies try to reduce the possibility of corruption to a minimum by introducing large penalties for those who subvert the system. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of "fronting" is widely recognized as a major problem facing the governments of Southern Africa who are trying to build up their local economies. For instance, fronting in South Africa is when a white company uses a black `front' in order to win a tender.
Lately, it has a fairly general practice that most authorities calling for tenders require all service providers to register on their service provider databases before their tenders will be accepted. The primary purpose of drawing up such a service provider database is to enable the checking of references before the rush to adjudicate a particular tender, and to block further tendering by service providers who have been pronounced dishonest or unreliable. A secondary purpose for drawing up such a database of service providers is to enable the authority to call for quotes from proven service providers to undertake smaller jobs that do not warrant calling for public tenders.