Panama - Country Commercial Guide
Selling to the Public Sector

Describes how major projects are secured and financed. Explains activities of the multilateral development banks in and other aid-funded projects.

Last published date: 2021-10-13

Law 22 establishes the principles and procedures that govern public contracts and dictates that government procurements (including independent entities and state-owned enterprises) must be conducted under its regulations and published electronically in a system known as “PanamaCompra” (https://www.panamacompra.gob.pa/Inicio/).  The Direccion Nacional de Contrataciones Publicas - DGCP (General Directorate of Public Procurement) is an autonomous entity responsible for administering the PanamaCompra electronic system. The DGCP regulates, interprets, supervises, and advises on the contractor selection procedures carried out by state institutions and is subject to the supervision of the Comptroller General of the Republic and the policies of the Executive Branch. However, the Panamanian government has multiple outstanding payment issues with U.S. companies. Due to the pandemic, this problem has increased.

Panama is an observer to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), an agreement that establishes rules requiring open, fair, and transparent competition conditions to be ensured in government procurements. Additionally,  the U.S.-Panama TPA (Chapter 9) requires fair and transparent procurement procedures for procurement covered by the TPA.

The United States continues to stress the need to increase transparency and accountability in the judicial process and government procurement. The Panamanian government’s historic inability to pay suppliers and contractors continues to be a liability that U.S. and Panamanian companies endure when doing business with the government. We encourage U.S. companies interested in pursuing public tenders in Panama to apply for support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center.

The Panama Canal represents significant business opportunities for U.S. exporters with annual purchases of as much as $250 million, including port and marine equipment, building materials, industrial equipment, transportation materials, and equipment.  Despite being a government agency, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is a unique organization that, by constitutional law, is autonomous, runs a profitable and efficient operation, has full control over its budget.  The ACP has an excellent payment record.

The Commercial Service maintains Commercial Liaison Offices in the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. These institutions are active and have several lending programs in Panama. For more information about projects, visit Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.