The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has started soliciting views and submissions from members of the public on the new regulations that will govern the procurement and disposal of goods by Government and parastatals. President Mugabe signed the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act on August 4, 2017.
According to Section 101(2) of the Act, the Minister of Finance “will cause a notice” to be published “stating that it is intended to enact the regulations and setting out briefly the effect of them”. Last week, the OPC indicated in a notice that members of the public are expected to submit representations to its office by December 1 this year.
“The Government Gazette of 4 August 2017 published the new Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) that provides for the control and regulation of public procurement and the disposal of public assets so as to ensure that such procurement and disposal is effected in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost effective and competitive; to establish the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and to provide for its functions,” reads part of the notice.
“The scope of the new Act regulates the whole procurement cycle from procurement planning, approaches to the market, evaluation and award of tenders, contract management and disposal of assets. The Act provides for modernisation and professionalisation of public procurement. It also covers public entities as defined in Section 2 of that Act.” Submissions on the proposed regulations can be delivered by hand at the OPC offices at Livingstone House or electronically through email.
It is believed that Government has been losing a lot of public funds through inefficient and ineffective procurement processes, which often result in the acquisition of sub-standard goods. In some instances, procurement officers have been accused of inflating the cost of goods and services. However, the new Procurement Act, which is also a key requirement of Section 315 of the new Constitution, is designed to ensure that contracts are awarded to companies that have the ability to see them through at the lowest possible cost to Government.
Through the new Act, the State Procurement Board — whose integrity had been tainted by embarrassing scandals in the past — will be transformed from a procurement agent into a regulator, the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. Its responsibilities will include advising Government, setting standards and guidelines, training and professional development. It will also refer contraventions of the law to enforcement agencies such as the police.
In addition, it will also investigate procuring entities and suppliers, and gather information and statistics on public procurement. Crucially, the regulatory authority will not only scrutinise the contracting of goods, services and public works, it will also monitor other services such as consultancy, joint venture projects and disposal of public assets. Accounting officers responsible for procurement in Government and Government departments are now expected to be solely accountable for the procurement process. In cases where there is interference from a higher office, the accounting officers now have the ability to lodge an objection with the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.
Also, now, in cases where there are disputes in the tendering process, before they are referred to the Administrative Court, which is often accused of bureaucracy, there are now internal review mechanisms to try and administer justice. A special committee that is made up of the three AGs (Attorney-General, Auditor-General and Accountant-General) will be set up to review the awards. It will also have the power to refer or order the cancellation of procurement proceedings. Challenges by bidders can be made at any stage of the tendering process. In addition, in cases where there are allegations of impropriety, the regulatory authority will have the power to appoint an investigator, who will have the same power as a commissioner as spelt out in the Commissioner of Inquiry Act.