…Who will make the cut?
The scramble for a seat on the nine-man Central Procurement Board is in its final stages, as more than 20 applicants await to hear their fate.
The interview panel tasked with selecting the nine members who will form part of the newly-established Central Procurement Board has completed the task, but the public will have to wait a bit longer until the finance minister rubber-stamps the successful candidates.
The board will be led by a chairperson and a deputy chair who will be appointed on a fulltime basis. The chair and the deputy will be appointed for five years while the ordinary members will be appointed on three-year contracts.
The board will have a tough task on their hands to ensure that public procurement is done in a fair and just manner. Government spends millions, if not billions, to procure goods and services annually.
In recent months, the scramble for lucrative state contracts has destroyed the public tendering system, so much that the National Tender Board that was made up mostly of permanent secretaries had to be dismantled because it was compromised.
“We have progressed well and the interviews are done…we are just waiting for the minister [finance minister Calle Schlettwein to pronounce himself],” said the ministry’s permanent secretary Ericah Shafudah on Wednesday.
Some of the applicants who are vying to form part of the board include former Motor Vehicle Accident Fund CEO Jerry Muadinohamba, incumbent Namibia Student Financial Aid Fund (NSFAF) CEO Hilya Nghiwete, NSFAF Company Secretary Immanuel Wise and former Social Security Commission Executive Officer Kenandei Tjivikua. Nampower board chairperson Maria Nakale-Gaomas is also said to be part of the list.
Shafudah refused to give the full list of applicants saying the panel has agreed that issues related to the recruitment of the board will be handled by the Minister.
The board is, amongst others, expected to open up participation in the government’s procurement system to small and medium enterprises and previously disadvantaged persons, as well as give preference to women and youth who have long been sidelined to being observers while the habitual well-connected individuals benefit.
Schlettwein, who has been among those that have publicly criticised the existing procurement system, confirmed yesterday that the interview process is complete.
So bad is the system that Government has been dragged to court more than once over alleged irregularities involving tenders worth billions. The non-existence of an appeal or review board meant aggrieved parties had no choice but to seek recourse in the court of law.
“I have not yet received the report, but I am told that they are finished. Once the process is done, it will go to Cabinet and then I will announce it to the public,” said Schlettwein.
Earlier this year he said the new public procurement law is an instrument “to better utilise our resources and at the same time improve transparency on how public resources are spent, adding that with the legal framework of the new law now in place, the finance ministry is in a better position to turn around the negative perception of the current procurement system “in a way that it has a multiplier effect on the economy”.
The Central Procurement Board was necessitated after President Hage Geingob signed into law the Public Procurement Act last year. The board will replace the current public procurement system, including the Namibia Tender Board and the Tender Board secretariat.
The board will also be tasked to ensure that the public procurement system is transparent and efficient, the law must establish appropriate management structures, must offer legal certainty about the entire procurement process and have the necessary mechanisms to resolve complaints and disputes, as well as prevent abuse and corruption during the acquisition process.
Shafudah in the past bemoaned the fact that Namibia does not have the legal framework to investigate instances of bid rigging in public the procurement system.
“I would not confidently say the state of affairs when it comes to bid fixing cases in the country as we have not done any investigation in whether the bid fixing is widespread in the country. We do not have the instruments necessary to effectuate the investigations. It is something that we have been planning to look into, however we have not done any in-depth discussion on the matter at this point, but it is something we will surely look into the future,” she was quoted as saying.
Unlike the Tender Board of Namibia Act, the procurement board would be applicable to all public entities, including state-owned enterprises, with a view to harmonise procurement procedures in all government entities and also to better leverage the strategic importance of public procurement to achieve the state’s socio-economic objectives.
The new procurement law also enables government, as the single biggest buyer of goods, works and services in the market, to enforce the protection of workers and the environment, as well as offer empowerment and growth incentives to different categories of bidders.
Under the new law, the institutional structure will consist of a Procurement Policy Unit, a Central Procurement Board and an ad hoc Review Panel. The Procurement Policy Unit will serve as the technical arm of the finance minister to issue guidelines, instructions and standard forms; and deal with the capacity building of officials and bidders, provision of advice on procedures, review of the law, regulations and procedures to adapt to changing circumstances and compliance and performance monitoring. The Central Procurement Board will replace the current Tender Board with a view to achieve a higher level of efficiency. The Review Panel will sit as and when required and will be constituted by experts in specialised fields.