Ensure Government Procurement Produces the Best Value for Taxpayer’s Money
According to the GIACC, procurement has been identified as one area that is most prone to corruption and it is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Finance. In reference to reforms in the area of procurement, the government has taken the following steps:
1) In November 2018, the Minister of Finance announced that a Procurement Act would be tabled in 2019.
2) In November 2018, the Ministry of Works announced that a digitalised procurement system to ensure greater transparency would be put in place and expected to be completed in the year 2020. The Ministry also planned to set up an in-house committee comprising the MACC to address issues surrounding corruption before tenders are awarded.
3) In April 2019, the Ministry of Finance stated that the government had implemented an open tender system and zero-based budgeting throughout the public sector in its effort to stamp out corruption.
While the above mentioned steps are vital in addressing corruption and abuse of power emanating from procurement practices, we would like to emphasize that effective implementation of reforms can only be achieved by putting in place a law to deal with procurement. The law on procurement must address/embody the following:
1) Conflict of interest and the culture of patronage politics.
2) Clear punitive measures to be taken against wrongdoers across the supply chain.
It bears reiterating that this law cannot operate alone, hence the creation of the Public Ombudsman Office, must come hand in hand. Additionally, Parliament must further equip the PAC to conduct thorough investigations on the serious malfeasance reported in the Auditor General report, and ensure punitive action is clearly meted out, via the Chief Secretary.
The government’s commitment to enacting a Procurement Act is timely and commendable. Details as to when and how this commitment is going to be materialized remains sketchy. It bears reminding that consultations with civil society organizations is important and should be immediately initiated to kick-start the process of legislating this important law. This in line with the government’s obligation under Article 13(1)(a) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) which mandates that the government promote active participation of society in decision-making processes. Consultations with civil society organizations are key to ensuring that the law truly captures all pertinent points that need to be included to ensure its effective application and implementation.
We would like to also urge that a clear roadmap be provided to inform the public of the steps that the government intends to take to ensure that the law on procurement is eventually enacted. Under Article 13(1)(b) of the UNCAC, the government has an obligation to ensure that the public is given effective access to information related to its anti-corruption measures.
Reform the public procurement system and the way contracts are awarded
Ensure open tendering is used extensively and transparently, particularly for large projects
MOF to review all giant infrastructure projects with foreign countries
Review the practice of government procurement and tendering system
Review the processes to issue public-private partnership contracts by the Public-Private Partnership Unit (UKAS)
Relocate UKAS from PMD to MOF and revamp to check the powers of the Minister
Widen the use of information technology and online systems to eliminate individual and political influences in decision-making
Post online information about awarded contracts for public and civil society’s checking
Assist SMEs to access information on government tenders, so that they have equal opportunity to bid for suitable contracts