As the huge public procurement market is expected to continue growing in China, experts are urging institutional reforms in this field to improve transparency and prevent corruption.
"Due to lack of unified management, procurement centers at different levels of government cannot share information and carry out cooperation and exchange. They operate separately," said Liu Hengbin, director of the government procurement center of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China.
The prices for a company's products differ greatly from place to place in bids, which increases the purchasing costs and creates opportunities for corruption, according to Liu.
In 2012, the volume of China's public procurement deals reached five trillion yuan (about 815.6 billion U.S. dollars), with government procurement running to 1.39 trillion yuan, or nearly 30 percent of the total, according to the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.
Public procurement could push the development of the modern service industry and expand consumption, said He Liming, president of the federation. "It is a means to deepen reform and opening up."
"In the new era, public procurement is in need of management and technological innovations," he said at a recent global public procurement forum in Wuhan, capital of central Hubei Province.
A large number of deals in which government procurement centers should be in charge of the purchases are instead handled by private agencies, according to Liu.
In Inner Mongolia, regional public procurement reached 11.6 billion yuan in 2012, which included 2.86 billion yuan of purchase deals carried out by social agencies, according to Liu.
"It is necessary to form a unified government procurement market and set up a system to supervise government purchasing deals," added Bai Jingming, a researcher with the Ministry of Finance.
Setting up an electronic national platform for this purpose will help deepen the country's public procurement reforms, He suggested.
"Transparency is the optimal practice for us to guarantee high-quality public procurement," said Jan Mattsson, executive director of the UN Office for Project Services.
China can learn from the European Union's legal framework on public procurement, which has concrete rules on different aspects of the purchasing acts, said Cai Jin, vice president of the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.