Tender cancellations should be a thing of the past
Last year, Namibia saw yet another controversial public tender being awarded and later cancelled by the Office of the President over irregularities in its awarding.
This time, it was the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) caught on the wrong side of the tendering system for having awarded an N$7 billion airport tender to a Chinese State-owned company.
Ironically, this wasn’t the only public procurement system mess-up experienced by the country as earlier, a controversial electricity-generating project known as the 250 megawatt power plant was awarded to Xaris, a company known to be supported by well-known political elites.
This tender was cancelled, posted and deferred on the ground of irregularities, but eventually it was awarded.
What is more worrisome though is the trait of many public procurement projects being challenged in court, associated with corruption and irregularity.
In the past, there were also other tenders - including the most controversial Neckartal Dam tender - which saw the project being delayed for months because of irregularities in the manner it was awarded.
Unfortunately, it’s mostly projects with a national interest which have a neck of causing controversy and costing the country even more millions in additional costs incurred by delays.
While irregularities are not expected to be normal, there are some instances when undue influence is made part of a procurement system by the mighty and powerful in a bid to get favours from those who win the tenders.
There also instances where one would question why a laid-down tendering procedure is deliberately ignored for the sake of benefiting a few.
Indeed, there are also questions on why those who infringe the laid-down procedures are never prosecuted, but left walking free.
Perhaps the system needs to be planned in a way that deals with those who cause irregularities, and also systems put in place to make sure this does not happen again.
Leaving bad habits behind With the dawn of the New Year, one would expect that the country moves away from the controversy surrounding tenders.
It is imperative also that such anomalies are dealt with before they attract the attention of the president.
This year, it will be expected that the Procurement Bill which was sent to parliament will be implemented fully in a manner that helps both the country in terms of project execution and employment-creation.
A glimpse at the Procurement Bill actually shows that the document has had wide consultation and can improve the public tendering system if all the clauses are captured.
Learning from past mistakes Government also needs to learn from their past mistakes and lay modalities which will see recent mistakes of the past dealt with.
There is an urgent need to make sure that public procurement processes do not spill into courts, nor do they need to later be adjudicated or debated outside of the laid-down procedures.
Ideally for this to happen, undue influence from the public procurement system should be done away with, and the promotion of transparency must take centre-stage.
It is also imperative that most of the companies or government agencies are empowered to understand the procurement system extensively when issuing tenders and expressions of interest.
Sometimes, the challenges associated with the poor procurement processes can easily be attributed to failure by procurement offers and heads of department in public service to understand interpretations of the law and the processes which need to be followed.
One would want to see a much-improved public procurement process in Namibia in 2016. There are also bottlenecks which have been deliberately created by a few individuals in the sector, which need to be done away with.