Pro­cure­ment sys­tem re­form hailed

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

THE Pri­vate Sec­tor Foun­da­tion of Le­sotho (PSFL) has wel­comed the gov­ern­ment’s ini­tia­tive to re­struc­ture the pub­lic pro­cure­ment sys­tem.

Ad­dress­ing a press brief­ing on Tues­day this week, PSFL Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Thabo Qh­esi said the pro­posed sys­tem had the po­ten­tial to re­store the pri­vate sec­tor’s ail­ing con­fi­dence in com­pet­i­tive bid­ding.

The gov­ern­ment has en­gaged a pri­vate con­sul­tant, Mbuba Mbungu of B-op­er­a­tions and Pro­cure­ment to as­sist with the re­struc­tur­ing process. The project, which started in May this year, is be­ing un­der­taken in part­ner­ship with the Min­istry of Fi­nance, with fund­ing com­ing from Le­sotho’s de­vel­op­ment part­ners.

Among other things, the con­sul­tant pro­poses for 20 new stan­dard bid­ding doc­u­ments to be in­cor­po­rated into the pub­lic pro­cure­ment sys­tem.

“As PSFL we are es­pe­cially happy with the con­sul­tant’s out­lined frame­work which rec­om­mends the 20 bid­ding doc­u­ments,” said Mr Qh­esi.

“It has fac­tored in in­ter­na­tional pro­cure­ment stan­dards and prac­tices and will go a long way in restor­ing con­fi­dence in the bid­ding process. “This means if, for in­stance, a bid­der lodges a com­plaint, the gov­ern­ment would be re­quired to dis­close the ‘Record of Min­utes Pre-ten­der Meet­ing’ doc­u­ment that would of­fer more in­sight on the query.”

The PSFL boss said the ap­proval by par­lia­ment of the new draft pol­icy would re­peal the “heav­ily flawed” Pro­cure­ment Reg­u­la­tions of 2007.

“Upon the con­sul­tant’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions lead­ing to the new draft, many flaws were dis­cov­ered which in­cluded gaps in the pro­cure­ment pol­icy that re­sulted in many cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties,” he said.

“He (con­sul­tant) dis­cov­ered at least 90 per­cent of cases re­ported at the Direc­torate on Cor­rup­tion and Eco­nomic Of­fences were re­lated to pro­cure­ment. It was fur­ther es­tab­lished there was a lot of in­ter­fer­ence from higher of­fi­cials in in­flu­enc­ing ten­der awards.”

Mr Qh­esi added: “Mr Mbungu’s find­ings also de­tected high oc­cur­rences of over­pay­ments or dou­ble pay­ments in the sys­tem that could have been brought about by in­com­pe­tent pro­cure­ment of­fi­cers in some de­part­ments.”

The re­port also un­earthed com­pli­ca­tions em­a­nat­ing from loop­holes in the cur­rent pro­cure­ment pol­icy.

“The re­port showed the cur­rent pol­icy lacked clear-cut pro­cure­ment plan­ning which ren­dered it poor. For in­stance, there was ev­i­dence most pro­cure­ment of­fi­cers over-spent un­nec­es­sar­ily dur­ing the end of the gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cial year, oth­er­wise known as March Fi­nal,” he said.

“The re­port also shows com­plaints aris­ing from bid­ding were of­ten de­ferred to the courts in­stead of seek­ing less ex­pen­sive means of re­solv­ing the mat­ters.”

Mr Qh­esi said the con­sul­tant’s draft pol­icy which en­closes the afore­men­tioned rec­om­men­da­tions would be sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment fol­low­ing a pub­lic scru­tiny to be held to­mor­row.

Upon par­lia­ment’s ap­proval of the draft, he said, the Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment Ad­vi­sory Di­vi­sion which is winged within the Min­istry of Fi­nance would be es­tab­lished as an in­de­pen­dent depart­ment tasked with of­fer­ing pro­cure­ment ser­vices with­out un­due in­flu­ence.

“We are of the be­lief that most pro­cure­ment er­rors or fail­ures are re­lated to ab­sence of in­de­pen­dence in the Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment Ad­vi­sory Di­vi­sion. Be­cause of its lo­ca­tion in the Min­istry of Fi­nance, it is most likely to be mak­ing in­flu­en­tial de­ci­sions,” noted Mr Qh­esi.

“This di­vi­sion was ex­pected to carry out pub­lic pro­cure­ment over­sight func­tions across all pub­lic en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing ca­pac­ity build­ing, re­search and pol­icy for­mu­la­tion.”

“This has not hap­pened be­cause in the ab­sence of Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment Law, the reg­u­la­tions alone can­not give the di­vi­sion le­gal author­ity to ac­cess records and in­for­ma­tion from pub­lic en­ti­ties,” he added.

PSFL Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Thabo Qh­esi.

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