Why Jordan Needs a MeBeWeBe Program...
So, most of you undoubtedly did a big "hunh?" at the title. After all, mebewebe programs are not only US specific, they're governmental procurement specific. So, what IS a mebewebe, and why do they need a program? Good questions, and I'm going to take some artistic license in my argument, so this is forewarning...
Mebewebe clauses are typically added to US government contracts (all levels, city, state, federal), to help ensure governmental money is going to traditionally disadvantaged groups. the Mebe part is for minority-owned business enterprises and the Webe part is for women-owned business enterprises. Contracts will often specify that a particular portion of the overall contract must be let to a mebe or a webe. So, I worked on a project for a company that won a competitive bid with a local city government. They were required to give 15% of the total contract value to a mebewebe. Now what does that have to do with Jordan?
You see, many months ago, El 3atal and I went through the procurement process on a contract with GAM. The competitors were a few small local companies (like us) and a few large Dubai-based companies with no local presence. Eventually, we decided not to bid based on scope issues and significant risk. But, in the process, it became clear that the front-runner was one of the large American companies based in Dubai. This company has no local office. All of the proposed project team members come out of Dubai. So, if GAM (or the government) awards such a contract how does Jordan benefit?
The salaries go out of Jordan, the intellectual capital goes out of Jordan, the profits go out of Jordan. While some money will be coming in for travel, you know the company is going to minimize that as much as possible to keep their overheads low. So, dinars go out and IC goes out leaving Jordan poorer in many ways.
Around the time I started thinking about this, Nas posted about the rumor mill and it's sighting of Omar Maani for awarding contracts to small companies no one has ever heard of. Ours would be one of those (had we bid and won). Our company is new and small, but has world-class skills and talent. So, somehow it's a double edged sword for the government isn't it? If they give the contracts to big names, the money leaves the country. If they give it to capable smaller companies, they are accused of nepotism, kick-backs, and who knows what else. Is there any way they can win?
Honestly, the bid we put in for felt rigged. But, not toward someone with potential financial gain but rather toward big names. It felt like the committee members were interested in covering their hind ends by hiring the biggest name. In addition, we were hindered by a poor process. It's new to them so they aren't as transparent or as experienced as most federal, state, and local governments in the US when it comes to large contracts for services (they give you not only exactly the format for the proposal, but specific detail on how proposals will be scored... effectively, they give you a peek at their checklist).
At any rate, I propose that Jordan needs a new program, we'll call it the HeBeJeBe program. Some portion of large contracts (say anything over 500,000JDs) must have at least 10% of the contract value sub-contracted to a Home Country/Jordan-based Business. And, it can't just be supplying laptops and such on a services contract. We need to ensure that the thought leadership, learning, and institutional growth is building skills here at home. Let's build Jordan's primary real resource, it's people. And, let's make sure that large government contracts keep some of that money here at home.