The Sunday Mail
Stories by Africa Moyo
THE modernisation of public procurement – supported financially by the World Bank and the African Development Bank – has begun, with the new Bill set for debate in Parliament before the end of this month, the Office of the President and Cabinet has said.
Principally, the Bill seeks to strengthen “sanction and remedies” relating to malpractices in the procurement proceedings by outlining actions that would be considered as offenses for officials within procuring entities and the suppliers.
The existing Procurement Act allows the Administrative Court to review contested public procurement decisions but the limitation was the lengthy and expensive process, which the new Bill also seeks to address.
The Bill is expected to be signed into law by June, paving the way for far-reaching reforms to State procurement.
Moves to reform State procurement processes were given impetus by President Mugabe in his State of the Nation address on August 25, 2015 and during the official opening of the Third Session of the 8th Parliament last year.
Before Government’s intervention, public procurement processes were shrouded in secrecy amid allegations of massive underhand dealings.
Former SPB chairperson, Mr Charles Kuwaza was sacked in November last year after a series of reports linked him and some officials with abuse of tender processes.
Last week, Deputy Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Ray Ndhlukula told The Sunday Mail Business that the reform of public procurement will be underpinned by the adoption of e-procurement to enhance transparency and efficiency in Government procurement.
E-procurement (electronic procurement, sometimes also known as supplier exchange) is the business-to-business, business-to-consumer or business-to-government purchase and sale of supplies, work, and services through the internet as well as other information and networking systems such as electronic data interchange and enterprise resource planning.
Dr Ndhlukula said the foundation for the e-procurement project is the institutional and legislative reform.
He said consultations have been completed.
“The immediate task for the Government is the reform of the institutional and legislative framework to facilitate adoption of e-procurement, a component of the broader e-government initiative,” said Dr Ndhlukula.
Modernisation of public procurement is in line with a myriad of economic reforms that Government is undertaking in the context of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ to revolutionise the business environment and make it more transparent, fair, honest, cost effective and competitive.
According to the report Doing Business 2016, Zimbabwe is ranked 182 out of 189 countries.
Government hopes that the reforms will also help strengthen corporate governance and accountability in the management of public resources while improving service delivery.
“In an era of fiscal austerity as is obtaining in the country, ensuring efficiency and integrity in public procurement is essential to ensure sound public service delivery and maintain citizens’ trust in Government.
“Further, as part of modernisation of public procurement systems to enhance the performance of the public sector in line with the wider ‘Ease of Doing Business’ project and realignment of all laws with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a reform of the State Procurement Board was necessary.
“The reform is also aimed at professionalising and modernising procurement systems to fight corruption that is rampant in the sector,” explained Dr Ndhlukula.
Once implemented, the reforms will separate regulatory and operational functions.
The SPB will devolve procurement activities to procuring entities whilst strengthening the policing, monitoring and evaluation function of the new Procurement Authority.
Professionalisation is expected to ensure that the procurement process will be managed by procurement experts within procuring entities to limit decision making under undue influence.
Procurement practitioners and procurement management units shall be issued licenses to practice to enhance competence and integrity in the public procurement process.
A code of ethics will also be provided.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa signed a US$2 million grant agreement for the public procurement modernisation with the World Bank on October 30, 2015 and part of the funds has been used for legislative reform and capacity building.
The Africa Development Bank (AfDB) is also keen to support the modernisation project and consultations are underway to determine the quantum of their support.
The grants will initially support institutional and legislative reform and capacity building and improving readiness for e-procurement.
So far, the fund has been channeled towards contracting the Institutional and Legislative Reform consulting firm offering technical assistance in the development of the legal instruments and for sensitisation and consultative workshops with stakeholders that included the parliamentarians, the business sector, civic society, local authorities, parastatals and central Government.
Evidence piles up against ex-SPB boss
LAW enforcement agents are closing in on sacked State Procurement Board (SPB) chairperson Mr Charles Kuwaza, with informed sources claiming that incriminating evidence against him continues to pile up.
The investigations are centred on tax evasion and possible rampant abuse of office.
It is alleged that Mr Kuwaza at one time received more than $350 000 in allowances, which included $150 000 in refurbishment allowances for his Quinnington, Borrowdale home in one year.
On the overall, it was also discovered that the SPB was not remitting pay-as-you earn (PAYE) on Mr Kuwaza’s earnings since 2009, while the rest of the staff had their deductions transmitted to the tax authorities.
Zimra had to garnish the SPB bank account to recover over US$800 000 in PAYE arrears for Mr Kuwaza.
Said the source: “Investigations into the actions of former SPB chairman Mr Kuwaza are gathering steam.
“Members of the Serious Fraud section are combing through several files as they seek to build a strong case against the culprits.
“It is critical that a strong message is sent to people that abuse their authority at the expense of the country.”
The SPB is seen as critical in attracting investment into the country and allegations of the tender board’s “opaqueness” during Mr Kuwaza’s tenure at the helm of the organisation are believed to have seriously dented its image.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Mrs Charity Charamba said she had not yet received information about the case but promised to find out.
However, Deputy Chief Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Ray Ndhlukula confirmed last week that investigations are underway to expose the irregularities perpetrated by SPB officials.
“With respect to abuse of procurement processes by SPB officials, the Government uses its systems to deal with graft in public procurement.
“The other arms of Government shall deal appropriately with criminal issues emanating from abuse of procurement processes.
“There are various cases under trial as reported in the Press relating to public procurement and some are under investigation and the due process is expected to expose such irregularities,” said Dr Ndhlukula.
Mr Kuwaza was replaced by Ambassador Buzwani Mothobi, who was a board member.
In 2012, Mr Kuwaza confessed before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Budget and Finance that SPB officials were thoroughly corrupt and that they had the audacity to open tenders and phone the “bidders demanding bribes to facilitate winning”.
Such officials are also under investigation and once a solid case has been built against them, they will be prosecuted.
Government has declared zero tolerance to corruption and is currently trying to rid the public sector of graft.