AS the country looks at tackling its fiscal deficits and empowering the citizenry, it is cardinal to have a credible public procurement system.
According to trends globally, an efficient procurement is the answer to saving public resources.
In the absence of such a system, a lot of resources needed to finance key projects go to waste.
Several developing countries channel significant portions of their budgets through a prudent procurement system in the quest to save financial resources.
Lack of transparency and corruption should not be encouraged at any level of the procurement process.
We therefore concur with the Consumer Unit Trust Society (CUTS) on the need for Zambia to make its public procurement system more credible, transparent and efficient to drive the country’s economic growth.
According CUTS board member, Sajeev Nair, there is a lack of credibility, transparency and accountability in public procurement management which needs to be addressed to correct the procurement system.
We think that a well performing public procurement system will increase citizen’s confidence in their Government.
Such a system can also promote private sector competitiveness, growth and improved growth of small and medium sized businesses.
However, there is hope that the coming in of the Zambia Public Procurement Act of 2020 coupled with the signing of Statutory Instrument (SI) Number 36 of 2021 will address misgivings from stakeholders.
On April 16, this year, Finance Minister Bwalya Ng’andu signed the SI order number 36 of 2021 which seeks to empower local entrepreneurs to participate in public tender beyond 20 per cent and make the public procurement more transparent .
Measures like the new ZPPA Act and its subsequent pieces of legislation are anchored on reducing financial outflows through foreign denomination of public procurement.
Apart from providing a local empowerment mechanism, the new order seeks to provide cost benchmarking thereby protecting public finance.
It is good to note other major provisions include price benchmarking in public procurement especially that we have been seeing disparities in pricing of some tenders.
Indeed projects of similar nature should not be priced differently and so the new legislation which pegs tender varying at 25 per cent and anything higher leading to a fresh tender will undoubtedly prevent the misuse of public resources.
Like Dr Ng’andu put it, stakeholders such as the Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply (ZIPS) need to sensitise critical stakeholders on the new legal provisions.
We have been told that this SI is a culmination of thorough stakeholder consultations, hence stakeholders should own it for easier implementation.
It is a fact that good legal documents and policies, at times, do not achieve the intended fruits.
The provision in the new law to punish tender fronting by blacklisting those buying and selling tenders is progressive especially that it will also force local business players to acquire critical skills.