Public Procurement Act’s strong point is dealing with conflict of interest

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WINDHOEK, 20 February 2017 - Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein addressing the chief executive officers and chairpersons of State-owned enterprises at the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management on Monday. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

Edgar Brandt

Windhoek-One of the strongest points of the new Public Procurement Act, which comes into effect on April 1, to replace the Tender Board Act, is that Central Procurement Board members, as well as members of the Review Panel, should disclose their interests upfront in order to avoid any conflict of interest in the awarding of tenders.

The Central Procurement Board is the overall governance body and consists of nine members, of which the newly appointed chairperson, Patrick Swartz, and the deputy chairperson, Lischen Ramakutla, will be employed on a full-time basis for a period of five years, while the other seven members will be employed on a part-time basis on a three-year contract.

This transformational piece of legislation and its accompanying structural policy reform framework, which many hail as a welcome replacement of the Tender Board Act and represents a modernisation of the public procurement process, was promulgated at the end of December 2015 after an inclusive stakeholder consultation process. “From the policy perspective, the Public Procurement Act encapsulates best international lessons, embeds strong governance practices and streamlines public procurement as an important developmental and empowerment tool in the triple context of national economic development, social advancement and environmental sustainability.

“From the governance perspective, the Act establishes operationally autonomous, but publicly accountable governance structures in the public procurement architecture and expands its scope to the entire public entities sector.

“This is especially significant, noting that public sector material consumption of goods, works and services account for well over 60 percent of domestic demand for these services,” Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein said yesterday when he introduced the Central Procurement Board members.

“There has been a lot of publicity on the need to improve the ethics, efficiency and effectiveness of the current tender board and its administrative apparatus in terms of governance and the application of the principles of transparency, integrity and accountability, as well as value for money.

“Effective performance and internal control mechanisms also came under question with a result that some of the tender prices get over-inflated. In other instances, government and public enterprises have to deal with various courts cases as a result of how the tender award processes were handled,” he said.

It is expected that the newly appointed Central Procurement Board members will bring expertise, ethical and effective leadership, public accountability and legitimacy, as well as a system of internal control and evaluation mechanisms, which are above reproach, transparent and achieve greater value for money to optimise the country’s intended developmental goals.

According to Schlettwein, by considering the empowerment and national preferential treatment provisions in the new law, the coming into force of the Public Procurement Act is expected to catalyse domestic value creation and sourcing activity, with significant multiplier effects in the economy.

The new chairperson of the Central Procurement Board, Patrick Swartz, yesterday said: “The new Public Procurement Act has been welcomed by the executive, the legislature and the public at large as a reform tool in public procurement that will promote integrity, accountability, transparency, competitive supply, effectiveness, efficiency, fair dealing, responsiveness, informed decision-making, consistency, to name a few.

“It goes without saying that this board will endeavour to incorporate these values and principles in all our dealings and decision-making.” He added that one of the first duties of the brand new board is to ensure its own operationalisation to ensure public entities are served well, right from the start.

The other seven members of the Central Procurement Board are Mansueta- Maria Nakale, Maria Iyambo, Hendrik Loftie Eaton, Hilja Nandago-Herman, Titus Ndove, Epaphras Shilongo and Jerry Mwadinohamba.

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