Abuse of procurement laws to end

Source: Abuse of procurement laws to end | The Herald October 20, 2016

Lloyd Gumbo in KARIBA

Permanent secretaries or heads of Government departments will not comply with directives from ministers or their deputies who give them instructions to breach procurement regulations, the proposed Public Procurement Bill states.This came up during a Zimbabwe Procurement and Open Contracting Workshop training programme for journalists organised by the Office of the President and Cabinet in partnership with the World Bank in Kariba on Tuesday.

The Bill that seeks to replace the Procurement Act states that in the event that ministers and their deputies or board members, insist that the accounting officers breach the procurement regulations, they must immediately report them to the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet and other authorities.

One of the provisions of the Bill on duties of accounting officers and other persons to comply with the Act states that if an accounting officer is directed by a minister or deputy minister or any other person with authority over the accounting officer, to breach the procurement regulations, “he or she shall not comply with the direction, but instead, shall forthwith submit in writing to the minister, deputy minister or other person in authority as the case may be, his or her objections and the reasons for the objection.

“If after receiving an accounting officer’s objections and reasons under subsection (1), the minister, deputy minister or other person instructs the accounting officer in writing, to comply with the direction concerned, the accounting officer shall comply with the instruction and shall immediately submit a written report thereon; to the minister responsible for administering this Act (Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs); to the Auditor-General and where he or she is the accounting officer of a ministry or department of Government, to the Accountant-General and where the instruction was given by a minister or deputy minister, to the Secretary to Cabinet.

“Provided that, if the minister, deputy minister or other person fails or refuses to put the instruction in writing, the accounting officer shall not comply with it and notwithstanding any term or condition of his or her employment, shall not be liable to any penalty for such non-compliance.”

In his keynote address at the workshop, Senior Principal Director in Public Sector Modernisation and Performance Management, a unit in the OPC, Mr Solomon Mhlanga said public procurement reforms were in fulfilment of a Constitutional provision that required the promulgation of an Act of Parliament to address procurement of public goods, services and works in a transparent, fair, honest, cost-effective and competitive manner.

“This was given impetus by the pronouncements made by His Excellency, the President Cde R.G Mugabe during the official opening of the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament in October 2014, and the State of the Nation Address in August 2015, that the Procurement Act shall be amended to render public procurement process more efficient, transparent and in consonance with other policy initiatives and developments in the technological front,” said Mr Mhlanga.

“Reforming and modernisation of the State Procurement Board is one of the key elements of ensuring that ministries, parastatals and State Enterprises become more transparent and accountable in discharging their mandates, hence improving service delivery to the citizenry in line with the requirements of our socio-economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).”

Senior Procurement Executive in the unit, Mr Nyasha Chizu, said the Bill sought to close loopholes that procurement entities manipulated in pursuing self-interests.

He urged the media and civil society organisations to follow procurement processes from pre-tender, during and post-tender to ensure there was no corruption.

“Corruption happens at pre-tender stage where specifications are designed. The current Act does not regulate pre-tender, so you can get some people telling their proxies well in advance of the tender that they will flight while others will only get 30 days for huge construction projects,” he said.