By MARTIN NYIRENDA –
Public tendering procedures for procurement of goods and services for Government, if not improved, will continue to be a drain on the national Treasury.
The ongoing audit by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which has established that well over 70 per cent of road construction projects were awarded to cadres by the former government, leave a lot to be desired.
According to recent news reports, the former ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF) over-contracted road projects to a tune of about K13 billion against a budget of K3.5 billion for rehabilitation of feeder roads.
“The process has been flawed, leading to most contractors failing to follow contractual details as they implement projects and programmes which are supposed to benefit and improve lives of ordinary Zambians,” said Boyd Kabwe, a Kitwe based entrepreneur.
Mr Kabwe said it is the same thing when it comes to auctioning Government properties.
He said the system needs to be changed and Government should be supported in its agenda to transform the tendering process.
To the ‘New Dawn’ administration of the United Party for National development (UPND), as Local Government and Rural Development Gary Nkombo said, the road contracts during the PF government were a preserve of its party cadres.
Mr Nkombo said his ministry has established that a staggering K3 billion in certified works was owed mostly in contracts awarded about four years ago.
Sad enough, to date, most of the cadres who were awarded contracts have since not moved on site, with the roads assigned to them still not having been worked on despite being paid over K11 million.
As a core and transversal activity of Government, public procurement directly affects all dimensions of citizens’ lives at the macro and micro level.
Research shows that when used strategically, effective procurement systems significantly improve the lives of citizens through agile and high quality public services, such as health care and education.
Similarly, it could work as an enabler for job creation, social inclusion, innovation and building trust in public institutions.
As much as the New Dawn Government was upbeat to review the process and procedures, Zambians are equally interested to see the implementation of Government pronouncements to arrest inefficient tendering activities of public goods and services meant to uplift the people’s welfare.
It is for this reason that President Hakainde Hichilema wonders, by all extension, what barriers stand in the way of the law in the procurement processes.
In many ways, the President refers to ignored laid down tendering procedures currently applied in Government outfits which he has started fixing.
“If there is a need to change procedures, we will do that. What are the remedies? Is it what happens at the ministerial tender boards? We need to revisit tender boards. We should do it for the people of Zambia to benefit … We can save money to meal allowances to students,” President Hichilema said.
That revelation rests on the heels of reports showing that the procedure to award tenders had been marred with irregularities leading to multi-million Kwacha Government capital projects failing to be delivered on time, coupled with failure to pay attention to contracture details.
The problem with corrupt procurement procedures, as the UPND administration believes, is that deep rooted irregularities in the tender awarding processes affect sourcing of Government goods and services procured for public benefit.
Whose mind is not boggled with misapplication of public funds at Government outfits every year as highlighted in annual financial audit queries?
Aligned with the public concern, President Hichilema has shared his profound disquiet over misuse of public funds by people entrusted to manage such resources for the benefit of improving the lives of Zambians.
Awarding of over-priced contracts through flawed procurement and tendering processes has appallingly resulted in failed goods and services delivery.
This brings in the issue of poor public procurement processes which have impacted on economic development.
Therefore, it must be noted that the UPND administration has prioritized the public procurement processes in a bid of enhance transparency and predictability.
Among many challenges the procurement process has been facing over the years is to state that measures should be put in place to ensure that activities in the procurement process are monitored.
This is because a prudent public procurement system plays a critical role in the workings of the Government machinery.
Therefore, the importance of procurement in Government cannot be overstated because in many ways, it constitutes the lifeblood of Government programmes and services.
According to Lusaka based economist Kaluba Chipaila, procurement is
critical to almost all Government functions.
Mr Chipaila said the contributions made by public procurement can be viewed through many different lenses, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) work which considers citizens’ well-being as a binding goal for the various aims of public procurement.
The OECD, an intergovernmental economic organisation with over 38 member countries, was founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
The organisation further says that the value achieved from public procurement in many countries directly impacts the well-being of citizens, which in turn affects a plethora of issues, including their ability to contribute to economic development.
However, the procurement benefits and flaws, as well as its impact on national growth also translates into availability of health and education services availed by the Government.
For instance, the health system is highly dependent on procurement for medicines, products and services, a critical relationship that affects the lives of citizens.
There is need for the national procurement process in the country to revolve its strategy around a rather modern, effective and efficient procurement capability scheme.
“Public procurement in various national sectors was critical to the functioning of the government through a sound procurement practice,” said Joyce Chibale, a supplier of various goods and services.
Therefore, the New Dawn Government should be supported and at the same time reminded that for the purposes of achieving development in various national economic sectors, there is need to ensure that procurement, especially of Government services, is streamlined and credible at all levels of the process for the benefit of all Zambians.
After all, it is President Hichilema who said, with conviction, that; “We are not going into office to arrest those who arrested us; we will foster a better democracy… rule of law, restoring order.”
Therefore, there is need for an efficient procurement process at all levels of the national economic sector to benefit the people who are eligible.