Some Members of Parliament have reacted with shock to the proposed amendments of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) Act and regulations which are expected to be tabled in the July session of Parliament.
The new amendment, which will see PPADB becoming just an overseer with no say in the awarding of tenders, has sent shivers on the spine of MPs who fear that it will open flood gates for corruption.
Government, through Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, is said to have completed drafting amendments of the PPADB Act and Regulations. The proposed amendment will give ministries (procuring entities) absolute powers to adjudicate tender allocations while PPADB will just overseer to ensure that the procurement laws are followed.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) MP for Nkange, Dr Never Tshabang, said they are going to mobilise legislators to ensure that the proposed amendments do not go through. He said they are already complaints regarding awarding high capital tenders to certain companies and if the ministries are given the monopoly it will open flood gates for corruption.
When delivering the budget speech in February this year, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Minister, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka indicated that government was reviewing the PPADB Act to, among others, streamline the overall procurement process, increase the threshold for procurement devolved to implementing ministries and procuring entities.
The MP for Selibe-Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse has said the PPADB exists to promote fair, prudent and competitive bidding for government tenders to ensure value for money in procurement.
“Even though it’s under the Ministry of Finance, it has some level of operational independence. Any attempt to strip the body of its powers is an attempt to open floodgates for fraudulent and corrupt tendering process,” he reasoned.
Keorapetse said the envisaged amendments if indeed true, and if adopted will plunge into a crisis of projects that are awarded not based on merit or capacity to deliver but on biased considerations. “We are likely to see incompetent companies failing to deliver projects on time, within budget and with serious defects. Value for money will wane. Ministries can’t be trusted because they’re headed by Ministers and Permanent Secretaries who may not be competent in complex mega procurement and who may influence award of tenders for friends, party functionaries or relatives. Procurement officers at Ministries answer to their superiors such as Directors, Permanent Secretaries And Ministers,” moaned Keorapetse.
The Selibe-Phikwe West MP highlighted that PPADB has acted as a safeguard against abuse of power by corrupt ministries and government officials in the past and if it doesn’t have the necessary powers it would be a recipe for corruption. Instead of stripping off any of its powers, Keorapetse said that PPADB must be given more teeth and capacity to adjudicate tenders in an impartial or objective way.
“The body should only account to Parliament and courts of law, especially if they err or violate the law. Parliament should have a role in appointing the Board and the Chairman/CEO of the body to ensure its greater independence. Corruption has become widespread and oversight institutions must be more independent in every aspect,” he said.
Addressing the media early this year, PPADB Executive Chairman, Elijah Motshedi, said they hope the amendments will improve efficiency in procurement and asset disposal. One of the challenges that PPADB is facing, according to Motshedi, is failure by procuring entities to adhere to procurement plans.
The planned decision to strip off PPADB powers comes hot on the heels of another decision that shocked many, when government dismantled the Project Management Office (PMOs) in the Ministry of Land Management, Water Resources and Sanitation and took all the high capital projects to Water Utilities Corporation (WUC).
PMO and PPADB are said to have been a thorn in the financially itching hands of some senior government officials who felt that they were blocking their ambitions to dip their hands into the national coffers. The two entities are said to have been at the forefront refusing the interference of the ministers and senior government officials for the awarding of the tenders for the multibillion NSCII and 2.2.