Lobbying for tenders should be criminalised – NCCI

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Edgar Brandt

Windhoek-The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) has suggested that the country should criminalise lobbying for tender contracts.

The chamber’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Charity Mwiya, says that the same principle should apply in a court case where a suspect is not expected to lobby a judge or magistrate.
Similarly, the law should not allow bidding companies to discuss their bidding with officials or members of the Central Procurement Board.

“If it is found that a bidder has had discussion of their bid with any member of the board, such a bidder should be disqualified. It might be difficult to prove, but it must be made a rule.
“This will help remove doubts about Central Procurement Board members’ integrity and objectivity,” Mwiya said.

She made the comments during a recent dialogue titled Promoting Integrity: The New Public Procurement Framework, a Private Sector Perspective. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) facilitated the dialogue.

Mwiya added that another concern regarding the new public procurement system was the apparent upper hand foreign firms had over local enterprises.

“Allegations that foreign firms are not competing on equal footing with local firms needs to be addressed through a scoring system that takes into account the disadvantaged position of SMEs in particular, and local firms in general.

“Foreign firms for example, could have favourable lending terms and lower costs of capital from their countries of origin which make their goods and services cheaper. But allocating too much to foreign firms could deprive us of an opportunity to build local capacity within our own enterprises,” Mwiya said.

The NCCI has been against the inclusion of public enterprises as far as the procurement decisions are concerned.

The chamber holds the opinion that while the provisions of the new procurement legislation should apply to all public enterprises, the actual procurement decisions should be made by individual boards of such enterprises, thereby leaving the Central Procurement Board as an appeal body in cases of disputes, but not as the main decision making body.

“We think that putting all procurement decisions in the hands of the Central Procurement Board including public enterprises and local authorities could result in serious congestions and bureaucratic delays which could impact on our efficiency.

“We will have to test the new system and see how effective it will be, but if our fears are confirmed, we still think that this matter needs to be revised and possibly reversed,” Mwiya stated.

She continued by saying that the issue of transparency and fairness had been a major source of discomfort on the part of business, and said she hoped the new legislation would be able to address that.

“The law therefore must be accompanied by a credible system which eliminates bias in our public procurement system. The procurement system and procedures must remove any inch of doubt about the objectivity and fairness in the decision making process,” Mwiya added.

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