The long-awaited Procurement Bill, which is aimed at rooting out corruption in the public sector, will make its return to the National Assembly next Tuesday.
The Bill was withdrawn from parliament in October 2013, with some lawmakers at the time expressing concern over the contents of the Bill, arguing the role of government and that of new institutions to be created under the proposed law is not clear, and that the Bill has the potential to disadvantage businesses run by black Namibians.
Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein earlier this week gave notice in the National Assembly that he will table the Bill. He said it would regulate the procurement of goods, works and services, the letting or hiring of anything, or the acquisition or granting of rights, and the disposal of assets of public entities.
Schlettwein said the Bill would also to establish a Procurement Policy Unit and a Central Procurement Board of Namibia to provide for procurement committees and procurement management units, and their powers and functions.
Once enacted, the law will also provide for the appointment of bid evaluation committees and procurement methods. According to the minister, the Bill aims “to provide for the bidding process, bidding challenges and reviews; to provide for the employment of Namibian citizens; to provide for preferences to categories of persons, goods manufactured, mined and extracted.”
The public has over the years called for changes to the manner in which the State procures goods and services, with some arguing that in its current format the process is flawed and open to manipulation, especially when it comes to awarding State contracts.
Those who are well connected are said to be the ones benefitting most, generally at the expense of upcoming companies, while some observers claim that “kickbacks” for contracts are a result of the unregulated public procurement system, run mainly by permanent secretaries.
Lawmakers even requested a workshop on the Bill at the time to get a clearer understanding of what the proposed legislation entails. MPs such as Kazenambo Kazenambo, Peter Katjavivi and Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua were among the MPs who opposed the Bill at the time. Kazenambo wanted the finance minister to clarify the role of the institutions that are provided for in the Bill and how they would differ from one another. He also questioned the status of the Central Procurement Board and wanted to know whether it will function as a parastatal, or under which category of governance it would be placed.
Kazenambo also queried why the proposed procurement board members were given unlimited powers, especially that of extracting information about anyone bidding for a public tender, including their financial records.
If the Bill were passed in its previous format, it would have created a Central Procurement Board (CPB) to replace the current Tender Board, which has had its fair share of controversy over the years.