Windhoek-Government’s push for transparency and improved governance yesterday hit a new high when finance minister Calle Schlettwein announced that the Tender Board of Namibia would cease to exist from tomorrow and be replaced with the newly formed Central Procurement Board (CPB).
Schlettwein, who is scheduled to hold a press conference this morning on new radical changes in the public procurement space, also announced board members for the new body as well as its administrative chiefs.
Patrick Swartz, who has an academic background in accounting, was appointed on a five-year contract as full-time chairperson of the CPB, and will be deputised by Lischen Ramakutla, who has the same academic background.
Mansueta-Maria Nakale, Maria Iyambo, Hendrik Cronje Loftie-Eaton, Hilja Nandago-Herman, Titus Ndove, Epaphras Pendapala Shilongo and former MVA Fund CEO Jerry Mwadinohamba were appointed as CPB board members on a three-year term.
Schlettwein announced that 67 applications for CPB board membership were received, of which 35 were shortlisted after meeting the academic and experience requirements.
“The shortlisting of the Central Procurement Board was based on the number of years of experience in various disciplines, number of years of experience in procurement, the applicant’s own field of expertise, and the gender of each candidate,” the minister told the National Assembly yesterday.
The CPB is birthed by the new Public Procurement Act, Act No. 15 of 2015, which was promulgated and gazetted on December 31, 2015, and comes into effect this Saturday, April 1.
The new law empowers the minister to appoint CPB members and review panel members following an open, fair and transparent prescribed process of invitation, interview and recommendation by a recruitment committee.
The chairperson and deputy chairperson – Swartz and Ramakutla – will be employed full-time for a period of five years and be paid a monthly salary, while the seven board members will be employed part-time and remunerated on that basis.
The new act also empowers the minister to appoint a pool of fifteen experts with various qualifications to serve on the review panel on a temporary basis as the need may arise, and to adjudicate over reviews of bids should any dispute arise.
Former Social Security Commission CEO Kenandei Shao Tjivikua, Michael Gaweseb, Ono-Robby Nangolo, Amon Ngavetene, Selma-Penna Utonih and Toska Sem were selected to serve on the review panel, but the panel is still short of nine members to fill the remaining positions.
Tertiary institutions have been approached to nominate qualified people who can fill the vacant review panel positions, the minister said, adding that out of 28 applications, only 13 people qualified for interviews.
The dismantlement of the Tender Board of Namibia marks an end, or it is so hoped, to an episode of controversial public procurement regime, whose numerous tender awards were set aside by the courts.
“As we all know, there was a lot of publicity on the weakness of the current Tender Board Act in terms of governance structures, the principles of transparency and accountability as well as value for money, in that some tenders were over-inflated,” the minister conceded.
“There were also various court cases in which the Tender Board’s decisions were set aside. However, there were also instances where court cases were ruled in favour of the government.”
The announcement of the CPB members, seen by many as a positive step in the direction of transparency and governance in general, comes a day after the government – in the same quest – won a Supreme Court case against a Chinese company which was irregularly awarded a N$7 billion airport construction tender.
The government had initially lost the case in the High Court, after President Hage Geingob’s directive to cancel the tender, originally costed at N$3 billion, was ruled illegal. Government argued the tender was inflated.
The new Procurement Act empowers public institutions to award tenders, which are below a defined threshold, internally.
“As a way forward, all public entities are expected to make sure that all internal structures as per Public Procurement Act, 2015 are in place,” Schlettwein urged.