By Patience Nyangove
IN what appears like yet another scheme to continue bleeding the country dry, through dubiously awarded contracts to tenderpreneurs, several State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and ministries have applied to bypass the newly appointed Central Procurement Board, Confidente can reveal.
Under the new Public Procurement Act, all tenders above N$35 million have to be awarded through the Central Procurement Board.
According to the 2017/2018 national budget, N$6.7 billion is earmarked to be spent in procurement, with a portion of the N$50.7 billion operational budget also set aside for this purpose.
Confidente can reveal that several parastatals and ministries have approached the Central Procurement Board, requesting tender exemptions, which will give them the leeway to circumvent the new bid committee, and handpick companies they want to award the lucrative contracts to.
The reason cited for attempting to circumvent the Central Procurement Board, is that the SOEs and ministries can’t “practically fulfil their obligations, by acquiring services and goods”, through the board.
Confidente is reliably informed that Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein, together with the Central Procurement Board, have since slammed the door on the parastatals and ministries, by refusing to entertain any request for tender exemptions.
Some of the parastatals reported to have requested tender exemptions are Nampower and Namport.
Schlettwein on Tuesday confirmed to Confidente that the requests for tender exemptions had been submitted by several parastatals and ministries.
“Some parastatals and ministries are trying hard not to conduct their procurement through the Central Procurement Board, as per the stipulations of the Public Procurement Act… Some of the entities are Nampower and Namport, and several ministries,” Schlettwein said.
“The reason they do not want to use the Central Procurement Board is that they claim that they cannot practically fulfil their obligations, under the new Public Procurement Act, so I have ordered them to make sure that they make themselves compatible with the Act, to make sure that they fulfil their obligations, instead,” the finance minister said.
Schlettwein also disclosed that the Central Procurement Board was currently the only State-owned entity that is legally empowered to award tenders, as even local and regional authorities have to go through it as well.
Responding to inquiries on whether he was aware of reports that some parastatals had irregularly awarded tenders to companies, linked to influential people at SOEs and ministries, before the 1 April implementation of the new Public Procurement Act, Schlettwein said that if such actions took place, they were illegal.
“Such actions could have been done, but they were done illegally, because we had sent out a directive to every State-owned entity, informing them to wait for the new Public Procurement Act to come into effect first,” Schlettwein said.
Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, said on Wednesday that although teething problems were expected, when the Public Procurement Act came into play, he would not be amused if he establishes that SOEs are intentionally trying to avoid the Central Procurement Board.
“The Public Procurement Act is a new piece of legislation, and one can always expect certain complications, or teething problems, when new legislation is implemented. We have instructed the SOEs last year already to align their procurement policies to the new Act, and they have done very well to conclude the exercise,” Jooste said.
“The only delay has been that they were waiting for the regulations to be gazetted, before they could incorporate all the elements. I have confidence in the new legislation and the Finance Ministry has agreed that they will amend the regulations, if we experience undue bottlenecks, after implementation.”
Jooste said that he trusts that the Central Procurement Board will follow due process, before they agree to exempt any item, from a SOE or any other government ministry.
“They have been granted the authority to discern. I will not be happy if SOEs are deliberately trying to circumvent the Central Procurement Board, and we will take appropriate action if this is occurring, but this has not been brought to our attention.
“The Public Procurement Act was not some impulsive kneejerk decision, but rather one which was formulated to improve on the previous legislative regime, and to remedy the various flaws or weaknesses,” Jooste said.
“The Ministry of Public Enterprises supports this legislation 100 percent and we will do everything within our power, to ensure that SOEs comply with the provisions.”
Nampower Managing Director, Kahenge Haulofu, said that the parastatal had requested for an exemption for the construction of substations in northern Namibia which, was turned down.
“Nampower submitted an exemption, in line with the provisions of Section 4(2) of the Public Procurement Act, which empowers the Minister of Finance to grant a general or specific exemption from the provisions of the Act, for specific types of procurement,” Haulofu said.
“It must be emphasised that we did not request a general exemption, for all procurement above the Nampower threshold, but a specific exemption request for the construction of substations in the northern regions of Namibia, namely the construction of two new 400kV substations at Kunene and Omatando and two new 132kV substations at Masivi and Shiyambi.
“In addition to the substation tenders, an exemption request was also made for the procurement of transformers, and more specifically four tenders, which at the time of the commencement of the Act had already closed.”
Haulofu added that the reason the parastatal had requested for the exemptions, was because the Central Procurement Board had informed them that they would be delays in issuing the tenders, because the board and its Procurement Policy Unit were not fully operational.
“Due to severe capacity constraints, in the northern and north-eastern regions of Namibia, which have impacted security of supply to Nampower customers, we therefore took the initiative to request an exemption, in line with the provisions of the Act, which request was denied.”
The Central Procurement Board replaced the Tender Board of Namibia, which had long been dogged by numerous allegations of corruption, in the awarding of contracts.
Efforts to get comment from Namport proved futile, as all its officials that deal with media inquiries were said to be attending a training workshop on Wednesday.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015