Procurement remains murky

10 June 2019 | Crime

Access to information on government procurement activities remains largely non-transparent despite repeated claims that the new public procurement mechanisms are meant to enhance accountability and transparency.

“Trying to determine what is actually happening in the public procurement space continues to be a confusing endeavour,” the fifth edition of the Procurement Tracker Namibia (PTN), an initiative of the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), states.

Under a section titled 'A messy numbers picture', the researchers behind the tracker, led by IPPR's Frederico Links, underline that despite the new procurement frameworks in place, aimed at introducing transparency and accountability in government purchasing and contracting, the “practices and activities of relevant authorities continue to fall short”.

Their research, started in early 2018, found that to date, public procurement data and information on the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN), is not well presented and does not create “a coherent picture of what is happening”.

On the issue of transparency overall, the tracker notes that “on the whole, the public service is faring poorly in affording the public access to procurement information, with most government departments not bothering to provide updated information on their websites regarding procurement activities.”

Another issue the research revealed while tracking adjudication of bids on the CPBN website, was that the website indicates the board issued 248 decisions on public procurement actions from April 2018 to January 2019.

The team found however that these “figures do not add up”, and that the total actual number of decisions comes to 295 for that period.

“No explanation is given for this discrepancy,” the report notes.

The PTN team also note that no mention is made of exempted public procurement transactions, a task that falls under the finance ministry, which in each case notifies the CBPN.

The lack of public information on exemptions leads to “obscuring the picture and continuing to raise questions about the appropriateness of the use of exemptions in public procurement, contrary to international best practices”.

The tracker highlights a variety of discrepancies related to the CPBN's website and contradictory information made public.

“On the whole, the data and information on public procurement activities available on the CPBN website are not well presented and do not speak to each other and do not create a coherent picture of what is happening in the public procurement space,” the PTN concludes.

For the 2018/19 financial year, research by the IPPR showed the CPBN adjudicated on 338 procurement actions by government departments, agencies and enterprises. Of these, 112 were approved, 68 were referred back, 33 cancelled and 106 upheld.

Nineteen were declined.

Overall the CPBN made 28 decisions per month for the 2018/19 financial year, with the highest number of decisions, 75, taken in September 2018.

JANA-MARI SMITH