SPB must be overhauled – business

Stories by Lincoln Towindo and Kuda Bwititi
Business leaders and corporate governance experts are calling for the immediate overhaul of the State Procurement Board (SPB) amid rising concerns over alleged corruption and the “questionable” integrity of the sole public procurement body. In separate interviews last week, the experts urged Government to move swiftly to clean up blemishes in the tender process.
Affirmative Action Group president Mr Chamu Chiwanza believes a forensic audit should be instituted.

Mr Chiwanza said the AAG is particularly concerned with the tender processing system at Zesa Holdings where several tender malpractices have been cited.

“We are appealing to Government to institute a forensic audit of the SPB. Due to their shortcomings and alleged corrupt practices, we believe they have created a cabal of ‘tenderpreneurs’ and ‘orderpreneurs’ who manipulate the system to their advantage.
“It is clear that some people are not winning the tenders on merit, but are taking advantage of loopholes in the system to win tenders. The tenders are being won by a few people who have connections within the SPB.

“We have seen several cases whereby people who have been awarded tenders fail to provide the required services but just outsource them from other companies.”

Procurement expert and lecturer at the University Of Zimbabwe School Of Business Studies Mr Taurai Matanhire said the State could be losing millions of dollars every year as a result of the murky deals at the SPB.

He said research has shown that the inflation of prices by over 50 percent was the foremost method used to cheat the system.
Mr Matanhire said the qualifications and integrity of all SPB officials should be assessed regularly to ensure deals are struck procedurally.
“A rough estimation would show that between 60 and 70 percent of all the tender deals that go through the SPB are not clean.

“Most of the deals have been compromised through overcharging and this has resulted in the country losing millions to corrupt officials.”
Zimbabwe Centre for Business Opportunities (ZCEBO) president Mr Paddington Japajapa weighed in, saying it appears only a few companies continued to win lucrative tenders.

Mr Japajapa said the recent case in which the SPB awarded a tender to two security companies owned by the same person raises stink.
“We have a problem in that there are only a few companies which continuously win tenders because they have the ‘right connections’. Under the current system, the same old companies continue to win tenders because they have links with officers from the SPB who give them tips on how to fill the tender documents.

“The SPB is not using its discretion in awarding tenders; it is using the same old excuses to turn down opportunities for new tender applications. The SPB should have a leeway of using its discretion to award tenders even in a case where a company has not filled the tender documents to specification.

“It is not fair that the companies won a tender to man all Zimra entry ports, yet there were several other companies that applied for the tender.” Mr David Mutambara, a corporate governance expert, said conspicuous flaws in the tender process are a result of poor corporate governance and lack of transparency at the SPB.

“In terms of corporate governance, my view is that the systems and processes at the SPB are not really understood by stakeholders,” he said.
“As a result, the whole decision-making process becomes a closed process where other stakeholders have no input whatsoever and are unaware of the procedures. The idea behind a tender board is transparency, but, in this case, stakeholders are not aware of the processes that go into the eventual awarding of deals.

“Generally, a more transparent process for tendering is needed.”
Last month, Government established a Cabinet Committee to ensure transparency at the SPB. The new Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure and Utilities is chaired by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

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