By: Justicia Shipena
The proposed amendments to the Procurement Bill has the potential to decongest the load at the Review Panel and to alleviate the cost implications on bidders.
Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi said this on Wednesday in the National Assembly when making contributions to the tabling of the proposed amendments of the public procurement act of 2015.
According to him, the amendment has the potential to decongest the load at the Review Panel and to alleviate the cost implications on bidders.
“The insertion of section 55(4A) introduces a new reconsideration process whereby an aggrieved bidder will first ask the public entity to reconsider its decision free of any charges and only approaches the Review Panel when not satisfied with the outcome of the reconsideration,” said Shiimi.
He said the amendment also prevents accounting officers from awarding a contract or signing any agreement during the standstill period.
Shiimi emphasised that public procurement is an important policy tool for safeguarding the use of public finance to ensure effective and efficient service delivery by public institutions.
“In this light, it is thus, imperative to constantly review the current legislation to fill the gaps identified from time to time to ensure that the public procurement system remains responsive to constant changes in the socio-economic environment.”
He added that the review panel is one of the institutional structures created under the public procurement act of 2015 to adjudicate applications for reviews launched by aggrieved bidders.
“Matters launched with the Review Panel would have been resolved at the public entity level. In other instances, bidders, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), forfeit the opportunity to use the Review Panel due to lack of financial resources.”
Shiimi stated that the amendment bill also inserts section 66(2B) to prohibit staff members of public entities and members of the Board of Directors of Public Entities from doing business with the Public Entities they serve.
“A contravention of this prohibition is not only considered as a conflict of interest but also a criminal offence punishable in terms of section 66(3) the Act,” he said.
He describes the step as a reasonable measure compared to other jurisdictions where public servants are prohibited from doing business with any state organ.
Speaking on Thursday, he said the bill also amends section 71 to clearly define the eligibility criteria for Namibians who qualify to benefit under the preferential treatment in procurement.
Hence he said the ministry is in consultation with the procurement policy unit to develop the code of good practice on preferences.
This will define categories of Namibians who will benefit from exclusive preferences Shiimi revealed.
“The code of good practice must be issued in section 70 to give effect to the national and exclusive preferences provisions under the act, pursuance of the developmental and empowerment agenda.”
Touching on roles Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) Shiimi further captures clarity on the appointment of the chairperson and the chief executive officer of CPBN.
“However, the governance structure of the CPBN has been criticised for not being in line with corporate governance best practices. This is because it’s Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson who are full-time employees of the CPBN are currently holding dual roles as administrative head and deputy administrative head and chairperson and deputy chairperson of the board.”
In this vein, Shiimi said the high-level presidential panel on the Namibian economy has advised and recommended the separation of these roles.
“The public procurement bill amends section 11 of the act to separate the roles of the chairperson of the CPBN with that of the accounting officer and abolish the position of the deputy accounting officer,” he said.
Moreover, he added that Section 11 has also been amended to allow the minister to extend the term of office for the chairperson, deputy chairperson and ordinary members of the CPBN.
“This is also to appoint persons on the board of directors of CPBN on a shorter period.”
Thus, under section 18A, Shiimi said the bill creates a position of the chief executive officer who will be the accounting officer of the CPBN.
Shiimi further added that Covid-19 had pushed Namibia to adopt new methods of procurement to access the Covid-19 vaccines, pharmaceutical, and clinical products.
“The insertion of section 38B is intended to lay down a policy and legal framework to enable the Government to procure essential goods such as vaccines and other essential pharmaceutical and clinical products through the pooled procurement mechanism.”