Govt tackles tender woes

06 August 2019 | Government

The sixth edition of Procurement Tracker Namibia (PTN), issued this week, highlights that a high-level government meeting convened in July to address the troubles that have plagued Namibia's public procurement systems is a clear signal that these issues can no longer be swept under the rug.

The PTN states that the “workshop sends a clear message that the problems that have been experienced with the implementation of the Public Procurement Act since 2017 can no longer be set aside or diminished as growing pains”.

Under the title “Trying to fix the system”, the PTN notes that in line with finance minister Calle Schlettwein's announcement in March that a stakeholder meeting would be held to address issues around the implementation of the Act, a workshop was held on 15 July.

The PTN bulletins, published by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), have since 2018 highlighted the myriad of challenges in Namibia's procurement space, including a lack of transparency, compliance and accountability, despite the stated goal that the new Act and Central Procurement Board (CPB) of Namibia were created to enhance those qualities.

The report states further that the challenges that have beset the procurement system since 2017, including a lack of transparency and compliance “have consistently been undermining state-wide service delivery and raised the twin spectres of waste and mismanagement through non-compliance with the law”.

The workshop was thus convened, the PTN bulletin states, in lieu of the fact that since the procurement law was operationalised at the start of the 2017/18 financial year “it has been plagued by controversy and challenges”.

The PTN further underlines that non-compliance on procurement plans “remains a headache”.

Speaking to participants at the July workshop, Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila talked on the issues of public entities compiling, submitting and publicising their annual procurement plans, in line with the provisions of the law.

She praised those who had complied with the requirement, but is quoted as saying: “I am disturbed by reports that some public entities do not have internal organisational structures in place and some did not submit their annual procurement plans to the policy unit. This non-compliance needs to be rectified.”

She stressed that all public entities should submit annual procurement plans to the policy unit for analysis and approval, and added that the policy unit is expected to grant approval in a timely manner.

Improve systems

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila explained to the assembled policymakers and government executives that the focus of the workshop was to help “assess the extent to which the procurement policy unit has performed its role”.

Moreover, the workshop's intention was to “look into challenges encountered in the implementation process of the new public procurement system, with a view to design measures to improve the situation”.

Schlettwein told participants, as quoted in the PTN, that the Public Procurement Act contains certain provisions that are “ambiguous, giving room to different interpretations and practices”.

The finance minister said in some instances the subsidiary regulations, standards and guidelines have not yet been developed, which has led to “difficulties to implement (the) relevant provisions”.

The minister underlined that in this regard finalising these issues and amending the Act has “become urgently necessary”.

A lack of sufficient staff and capacity constraints was also highlighted as a challenge by the minister, notably at the CPB and the policy unit.

Other challenges highlighted included “lengthy processes as a result of mainly, capacity challenges across institutional levels, complex documentation and (the) absence of key bidding documents, standard contracts and regulations”.

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