Government tendering made ‘easier, more accessible without weakening accountability’
The public procurement system is being made easier to use and opened to a larger market, the head of the public service said yesterday.
Mario Cutajar told journalists that the process had been simplified without affecting accountability and transparency. He also said that a points system could be introduced in the tender awarding process, and this would complement a shift in mentality where the cheapest tender was not automatically the winner.
The Principal Permanent Secretary said government tendering was now open to more people after certain experience and qualification requirements were removed for tenders not exceeding certain amounts. Bank guarantees were also done away with and the bid bonds were reduced.
He explained that the MEAT – Most Economically Advantageous Tender – concept was increasingly being used. “Rather than automatically going for the cheapest price we are looking for quality. We want public tenders to give results.”
He also announced that tenders under the amount of €250,000 will be issued and adjudicated by ministries – and the process will be overseen by a controller from the Contracts Department. In such cases, the department will assume the role of regulator, rather than controller.
Replying to questions by this newspaper, Mr Cutajar said the political side of the ministries – the ministers and their secretariats – will not have anything to do with the tendering process. “It is the administrative part of the ministry – the Permanent Secretary – that will be involved.” He insisted that this decentralisation process was actually leading to more transparency and accountability.
Three ministries are currently taking part in a pilot project and the concept will eventually be extended to all ministries.
Mr Cutajar said emphasis was being placed on the ‘ease of doing business.’ New regulations were drawn up to coordinate inspections on small businesses. He said some 72,000 inspections take place every year and these were proving to be a deterrent. “We want these inspections to actually help these businesses to improve their situation and to make sure that they are in line with the law.”
He also announced that a leaner version of the Public Service Management Code has been published. “We took away the irrelevant bits, and the chapters which contradicted other chapters within the same book and came up with a more modern code which is 25% shorter.”
Mr Cutajar said a bureaucracy-reducing exercise has been ongoing for the past two years. The public service, he said, had taken stock of the recommendations made by the National Audit Office and had implemented the necessary changes. Another NAO report will be published shortly.
The PPS also announced that mystery shoppers have started doing the rounds at government departments as from yesterday and the departments will be rated and told where they should improve.