As part of rebuilding people’s trust in the government after the 2011 Revolution, Tunisia’s legal public procurement framework underwent reforms that included the introduction of a comprehensive e-procurement platform called TUNEPS (Tunisia e-Procurement System), which replaced the paper-based centralized procurement system. Creating a fully functional digital procurement system promoted transparency through public online posting of bids and procurement procedures. TUNEPS has improved access to public procurement by financially vulnerable groups, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and women-owned enterprises.
The 2011 Tunisian revolution brought a series of reforms that aimed to rebuild people’s trust in the government, including introducing an e-procurement system for public institutions’ construction, restoration, cleaning, catering, and equipment services. With the old centralized paper-based public procurement system, businesses outside of the capital were more prone to exclusion, as they were not adequately informed of bids and would need to travel several times to Tunis (Tunisia’s capital city) to submit their offers for public bids. In addition, there was a greater risk of corruption due to lesser transparency.
The Tunisian e-procurement system is modeled after the Korean e-procurement system KONEPS, and was built in collaboration with the Korean International Cooperation Agency.1 It is operated by the Tunisian Public Procurement Authority (HAICOP) through a website with four main components:
- E-bidding: includes the publication of tenders, receipt of offers and public opening of offers.
- E-contracting: where contracts between public buyers and winning bidders are drafted, modified, and signed, and in addition, evaluations, and statistical analyses are conducted.
- E-product: which features product registration, specifying characteristics, and nomenclature according to an international classification system (United Nations Standard Products and Services).
- E-shopping mall: a cyber market where public buyers may perform small value procurements directly from suppliers. This component targets mainly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are financially unable to participate in large bids.2
To participate in public e-procurement, buyers and suppliers must first register with TUNEPS and secondly, obtain an electronic certificate that can be used for e-signatures from the National Agency for Electronic Certification (ANCE). The e-signature is essential to sign contracts.3
The work on the e-procurement project started in 2011, when the government conducted a feasibility study. The legal public procurement framework was approved and the TUNEPS platform was piloted in 2013. The first e-procurement on the platform was signed in 2014. HAICOP was responsible for the management and the improvement of TUNEPS.4 Under Government decree no. 34 (May 2018), all ministries, non-administrative public institutions, and state-owned businesses are mandated to perform their procurement through TUNEPS.5
There is no estimated cost for the TUNEPS platform. Much of the platform was developed under technical assistance from international organizations and donors such as the Korean International Cooperation Agency, Republic of Korea’s Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP), OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development).
The use of TUNEPS is currently free of charge for all users, but the Tunisian government plans to introduce fees in the future, in order to cover the cost of system maintenance.6
By 2019, TUNEPS had supported 3,350 e-bids and 6,400 procurements on the e-shopping mall,7 and public buyers have reported an improvement in terms of price and quality of goods and services procured under TUNEPS. Suppliers who embraced e-procurement expressed finding a new and important market for their products.8 In 2015, Tunisia was identified as a Regional Champion in the Open Government Partnership Awards organized by the Open Government Partnership,9 due to the improvement in public services achieved by TUNEPS.10
The e-system reduces opportunities for corrupt practices as it enforces transparency of bids, preventing government officials from withholding information and excluding non-favorite bidders, while promoting public oversight. It also promotes the economic inclusion of rural businesses, SMEs, and women- and youth-owned businesses such as consulting, catering, sealing, and glazing services, and ICTs, pharmaceuticals, and supply and packaging vendors. Through registration on the e-shopping mall, SMEs gain great visibility and their services become accessible to public buyers regardless of their geographic location.
However, TUNEPS’ activation on the ground was not without complications. Suppliers resisted the change and did not know how to register or benefit from the program. Facing these challenges, HAICOP has demonstrated flexibility and adaptability to improve the public e-procurement system, with technical cooperation support from the (KSP), OECD, and EBRD. HAICOP developed a TUNEPS help desk, organized training sessions, and increased awareness building—particularly for SMEs.
To further strengthen SME engagement, the government of Tunisia legislated that 20 percent of procurements annually must go to SMEs, and set the procurement threshold in the e-shopping mall to between TND 50,000 (USD 29,411) and TND 200,000 (USD 117,647)11 for small value procurements. Furthermore, HAICOP introduced an e-payment facility, a mobile version of TUNEPS12 and fully digitalized the procedures to obtain an e-certificate, so that it was no longer necessary to travel to Tunis.13 However, due to the small capacity of SMEs in some areas, only 17 percent of all public procurements were awarded to SMEs by 2020.14
An unintended consequence of TUNEPS was that it increased international bidding for public procurement in Tunisia, which has increased the competition for local markets, and benefited public systems. In 2022, 33 percent of public procurement tenders were awarded to international bidders.15
- 1. KOICA Tunisia Office, “KOICA Tunisia Office,” April 28, 2023, http://www.koica.go.kr/sites/tun_en/index.do
- 2. “Improving the E-Procurement Environment in Tunisia; supporting vulnerable groups in gaining better access to TUNEPS,” OECD.Org, 2020, accessed April 26, 2023, https://www.oecd.org/mena/governance/improving-e-procurement-environment-tunisia-en.pdf
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Ibid.
- 5. International Trade Administration, “Tunisia - Selling to the Public Sector,” accessed April 26, 2023. https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/tunisia-selling-public-sector
- 6. McGann, Nora Elizabeth, “Conversation with Khaled Elarbi, President, High Authority for Public Procurement (HAICOP), Tunisia on the Digitalization of Public Procurement,” World Bank - New Procurement Framework, 2018, https://wbnpf.procurementinet.org/featured/conversation-khaled-elarbi-president-high-authority-public-procurement-haicop-tunisia
- 7. "Improving the E-Procurement.”
- 8. Ibid.
- 9. Open Government Partnership, “About - Open Government Partnership,” March 29, 2023, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/about
- 10. “What’s New: News & Notices
- 11. Korea and Tunisia Signed MOU for Cooperation in E-Government,” mois.go.kr, May 26, 2016, https://www.mois.go.kr/eng/bbs/type001/commonSelectBoardArticle.do%3Bjsessionid=EobeBCQZLnkfGpBVPrrsOuGn.node30?bbsId=BBSMSTR_000000000019&nttId=49604
- 12. 1 USD = 1.7 TND according to the 2014 rate.
- 13. “Improving the E-Procurement Environment.”
- 14. الصغير, شيماء. “تطبيق متعثّر لمنظومة الشراء العمومي على الخط «تونيبس»: «الفساد يتغذى من العتمة والسرّ»,” Legal Agenda, September 16, 2020, https://legal-agenda.com/%D8%AA%D8%B7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%82-%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%AB%D9%91%D8%B1-%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A-%D8%B9">https://legal-agenda.com/%D8%AA%D8%B7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%82-%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%AB%D9%91%D8%B1-%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A-%D8%B9"
- 15. “Improving the E-Procurement Environment in Tunisia.”
- 16. Webmanagercenter, “Tunisie – Marchés publics : L’effet trompeur du TUNEPS et le rôle inquiétant de la HAICOP !” Webmanagercenter, October 28, 2022, "https://www.webmanagercenter.com/2022/10/28/493189/tunisie-marches-publics-leffet-trompeur-du-tuneps-et-le-role-inquietant-de-la-haicop
- 17. Transparency International, TUNISIA: CRACKDOWN ON DEMOCRACY AND TRANSPARENCY, 2022, https://www.transparency.org/en/blog/tunisia-crackdown-on-democracy-and-transparency
- 18. Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index, 2021, https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021/index/tun