Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Parliament has endorsed Government’s decision to introduce sweeping changes to the State Procurement Board by stripping its powers to award tenders following the discovery of loopholes that could have facilitated corruption by the board.
Lawmakers recently passed the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Bill, which will pave way for the establishment of a regulatory body to oversee State procurement which will now be decentralised.
The awarding of tenders will now be done by accounting officers in various State departments and companies, with the SPB only playing a supervisory and monitoring role to ensure Government entities comply with the procurement law and other set standards.
This is also in line with Government’s objective to improve the ease of doing business.
According to a schedule issued by Parliament, the Bill has been sent to printers for proofreading before it is sent to the President for his assent.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa steered the Bill in both the National Assembly and Senate.
One fundamental objective of the proposed law is to prevent accounting officers and other officials of procuring entities from complying with illegal instructions given by superiors like ministers and deputy ministers or other persons, in that they should put their directives in writing.
“If they think an instruction is illegal, they will have to tell the person who gave them the instruction in writing why they think it is illegal. If despite this, the person orders them to comply with it they have to do so, but will report the matter to the minister and the Auditor-General and in certain cases to the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet,” reads Clause 16 of the Bill.
Last year, Chief Secretary Misheck Sibanda told permanent secretaries that huge potential for corrupt practices in the tendering process had necessitated the changes.
Clause One of the Bill will give the President power to fix the date on which it comes into operation and this will allow time for regulations and administrative arrangements to be put in place to ensure its effectiveness.
Clause Three of the Bill provides that the Bill, when it comes into legal effect, would not override Zimbabwe’s obligations under international treaties that were binding.
The functions of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, as set out in Clause Six, are to supervise public procurement proceedings to ensure transparency, fairness, honesty, cost effectiveness and competition.
“Ancillary functions include advising and assisting procuring entities, issuing directives and guidelines, maintaining databases on procurement and registering bidders and contractors,” reads Clause Six.
Clause Seven confers powers to the authority to issue directives to procurement entities, order them to provide information about their procurement proceedings among other issues, to ensure compliance with the law.
The authority will consist of between seven and nine members appointed by the responsible minister after consultation with the President.
“Members will be appointed for their skill and experience in fields relating to procurement, and the board will have a number of men and women and fair regional representation,” read Clause 8 of the Bill.
Clause 11 of the Bill oblige the authority to report annually to Parliament on its activities and functions of the public procurement system.
Board members, employees and agents would be exempted from any liability unless their conduct was negligent or malicious or in breach of a contract.