New Public Procurement Bill tabled in NA

15 Sep 2015 20:30pm
WINDHOEK, 15 SEP (NAMPA) – The reviewed Public Procurement Bill was tabled in the National Assembly (NA) here on Tuesday by the Minister of Finance, who said the legislation is essential in the implementation of Government's programmes and the day-to-day delivery of public services.
The Bill was first tabled but withdrawn from Parliament in October 2013 when many concerns were raised. Many Members of Parliament felt there was not enough consultation before the Bill was tabled and that it proposed the establishment of too many offices, which could lead to bureaucracy.
Tabling the reviewed Bill on Tuesday, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein said provisions of the current Tender Board of Namibia Act of 1996 are sufficient to allow Government to derive benefits of a sound public procurement system but the initiation of a new and reviewed legislation were motivated by six deficiencies.
Firstly, “It is applicable only to the Offices, Ministries and Agencies (OMAs) while the State-owned Enterprises (SOE) and other public entities use their own procurement regulations or policies,” he said.
The second problem, he said, is the large size of the Tender Board that is constituted by representatives of the OMAs, together with the low threshold above which all procurements have to be channelled to the Tender Board, which negatively affects efficiency.
Another deficiency is an incomplete management structure as there is no advisory or oversight body and there is no mechanism to resolve complaints, which leaves aggravated bidders no alternative than restring to the court with the risk of a long delay and high cost.
He said the procurement methods are also limited to open advertising bidding and exemptions, which again compromises efficiency.
Another weakness is that there is also no provision for preferential procurement policy to empower local suppliers and offer growth incentives to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and categories of previously disadvantaged persons.
Lastly, Schlettwein said there are not enough provisions to ensure the integrity of the procurement process to avoid conflicts, fraud and corruption.
He further highlighted that changes made to the bill include allowing the finance minister to exempt certain procurements from the application of specific provisions of the Act instead of total exclusion.
Schlettwein said concerns were raised about exclusion of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NIS) and Namibian Police Force (NamPol) from the application of the Act.
Concern was also raised that the establishment of the Procurement Policy Office gives the minister unfettered powers in the appointment of members of the Policy Office.
“The Bill was reviewed to convert the Procurement Policy Office into a Procurement Policy Unit within the Ministry of Finance so that its staffing needs not be legislated under the Bill, but rather handled in accordance with provisions under the Public Service Act of 1995,” he said.
The police, who have very broad investigative powers like suspending bidders and suppliers, was also a concern raised but that was changed.
Changes were thus made to give clarity about the advisory and monitoring role of the Policy Office, which will be a unit within the Ministry of Finance.
“Moreover, the powers of the Policy Office to suspend and debar bidders and suppliers that were provided for the initial draft have been shifted to the Review Panel,” he said.
The functions of the policy unit were expanded to include assessing the impact of the empowerment measures to the economy and promoting the fundamental principles of procurement, which include the principles of transparency; integrity; competitive supply; effectiveness; efficiency; and accountability.
When approved by the NA and National Council, signed into Act by President Hage Geingob and gazetted, Public Procurement Act repeals the Tender Board of Namibia Act of 1996.