The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors this week approved a comprehensive new policy governing procurement in projects financed by the Bank.

According to the World Bank, the new Procurement Framework will allow the Bank “to better respond to the needs of client countries, while preserving robust procurement standards throughout Bank-supported projects.” In its Phase II report, the World Bank called the framework a “once-in-a-generation systematic reform and culture change.” The new Procurement Framework will go into effect in 2016.

The World Bank’s procurement system affects a portfolio of about US$42 billion in over 1,800 projects in 172 countries. “A portfolio this size needs a modern and nimble procurement approach that gives our clients the best value for each dollar that we invest,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice president for operations policy and country services.

For the first time, the World Bank said it will allow any contract award decisions to be based on criteria other than lowest price, including quality and sustainability. “The Bank has defined a procedure to guide the development of evaluation criteria, recognizing that procurements are unique,” the framework stated.

In specific circumstances, and with approval from the World Bank, clients will be able to use the procurement arrangements of other multilateral development partners or of national agencies. The World Bank also said will engage strategically with key business sectors to improve results and speed up procurement processes for the benefit of all parties involved in the procurement process.

The World Bank also said it will significantly enhance its approach to procurement-related complaints. Procurements will be speedier as prior reviews of contracts will be limited to those with the highest risk and highest value. The World Bank will also allocate resources to provide hands-on help to fragile countries, small states or others in the greatest need to assist them in procurements financed by the Bank.

The World Bank started its first comprehensive overhaul of its procurement system in 2012. The goal of the reform was to move from a one-size-fits-all policy to a fit-for-purpose policy.