Procurement sector lacks transparency - IPPR

The manner in which state entities are handling procurement plans suggests that transparency and accountability are still missing in the local procurement sector, a research associate for the Institute for Public Policy Research has lamented.

Such is the situation although the country has adopted the Public Procurement Act which almost a year and a half ago, said researcher, Fredericho Links in the latest Procurement Tracker report.

Links quotes finance minister Calle Schlettwein who had initially held high hopes that the coming into effect of the act on the 1st of April 2017 would see improved governance structures, transparency and accountability and value for money.

He has submitted in his report that, to the contrary, state entities are struggling considerably to bring to life Schlettwein’s hopes and those of the general citizenry at large.

Said Links, “Symptomatic of these struggles and challenges is the way government entities have been handling their annual procurement plants. According to law, annual procurement plans are to be drawn up by internal procurement management units in state sector entities, laying out their procurement intentions, practices and methods for every upcoming financial year.”

The researcher’s findings are that state entities have failed to comply with the guidelines set by the procurement policy unit in the ministry of finance.

These state that each entity should file its yearly procurement plans with the unit and notify it of any changes.

On top of this, quarterly reports with information as to the implementation progress ought to be filed as well, which are due end of the month at the end of each quarter.

According to Links, “This is where the proverbial tyre goes off the rim when it hits the road.”

“Our investigations reveal that out of the 30 ministry-level government portfolios, only 14 annual procurement plans for the 2018/19 financial year appear on the website of the ministry of finance.”

“Out of 58 local authorities – municipalities, 26 towns, 19 villages – only eight annual procurement plans for the 2018/19 financial year appear on the ministry’s website.”

He added that out of about 70 such entities, only 21 annual procurement plans for the 2018/19 financial year appear on the website.

Links also said sources have revealed that at these procurement policy units and various departments and agencies, many more seem to have submitted their plans to the finance ministry but have not yet been put online.

“However, in many other cases, the fact is that almost halfway through the 2018/19 financial year, annual procurement plans had yet to be submitted to the Procurement Policy Unit. Prominent amongst those entities of which no procurement plan is publicly available on the Ministry of Finance website is the Ministry of Finance itself and the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN).

“The Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) annual procurement plan is also not up yet, and according to someone spoken to at the ACC, the commission’s procurement plan hasn’t even been submitted yet.

"When we looked at how many annual procurement plans were available and accessible on the websites of the various government ministries, offices and agencies, as well as state-owned enterprises, as per the procurement guidelines, the picture becomes even more dismal.”

Out of 101 websites looked at, the annual procurement plans of only five (5) state sector bodies – Office of the Prime Minister, Office of the Auditor-General, Namibia Ports Authority, Namibia Qualifications Authority and the Development Bank of Namibia – appear on their websites, he said.

Notable in this non-compliance is the Office of the President and once again the finance ministry and the CPBN, and the ACC.

“According to sources, the widespread non-compliance is indicative of a situation in which most state sector entities are enormously challenged to implement prescribed procurement governance structures internally.

Questions related to the apparent challenges to implement the structures of the Public Procurement Act were sent to the Procurement Policy Unit, but no answers were received by the time of going to print.

"We will endeavour to publish the responses to the questions in the next edition of Procurement Tracker Namibia,” said the researcher.