Tender Board Secretary Welma Enssle says her office is eagerly waiting for the new Tender Board bill to be passed before the end of this year Local businesses often complain that they’re losing out on lucrative public works’ jobs as result of foreign companies being given preference.
However Tender Board Secretary Welma Enssle says the old 1996 Tender Board legislation, which was geared much more towards attaining direct foreign investment, is to blame “When you look at the 1996 Act, at the time it was passed we didn’t really have an SME sector as we do now. We didn’t have youth unemployment as high as now, which is forcing them to become entrepreneurs. The current act was more concerned with established businesses,” she says.
“Currently,” she says, “Namibian companies generally operate on a smaller scale than many of the foreign-owned companies operating in the country.” Foreign owned companies get preferential points on a variety of factors at the Tender Board from domicile status in the country to employing local students in apprentice roles or paying for local workers’ education. “It’s a good thing, but at the same time many companies misuse this provision,” she says. Likening the tender board’s decision to the permanency of a marriage, she says the board’s lack of an oversight function allows companies to “window-dress” their way into lucrative contracts.
“Because our function is simply to regulate tender procurement, we have to get the police or the ACC in whenever we suspect irregularities. Even in labour issues where security companies are accused of chasing people away for no reason – the Tender Board doesn’t have the means, but hopefully this will change with the new law,” she says. The new law is expected to set the board as an autonomous entity, as well as allow for a structural overhaul. “Procurement is a lot more technical today than twenty years ago. You need people with specific qualifications and capabilities today. You must literally be able to read plans, scrutinise contracts and hospital equipment specifications. “So under the new law, certain positions will have to be created as – both on permanent basis as well as those that we’ll pull from the private sector. This will help because currently we have to go to the Government attorneys whenever we need legal advice, which can take some time,” she says.