When the Government of Ghana initiated reforms in the Public Procurement System of the country a few years ago, its main objective was to improve the overall public financial management and to safeguard the integrity of the public procurement system, but the way and manner some procurements are done in recent times, almost makes mockery of the reforms.
A new means of procurement, which has found expression under a "Multiple sole-sourcing," which is non-existent in the procurement Act, and under which bunk beds and classroom furniture estimated at GH¢25 million for senior high and basic schools were procured, is beginning to raise eyebrows.
Under the system, companies owned by suspected gents of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration are hand-picked and given juicy contracts in order to return the favour, sources in the industry say.
With Mr. Samuel Sallas Mensah, former Member of Parliament and now Chief Executive of the National Procurement Board, the Ministry of Education has struck an alliance with the Board, under which the board has approved various requests for 'multiple sole-sourcing' for the supply of furniture to senior high schools across the country, and dual beds for basic schools.
A document dated 6th October, 2011, with the subject: "RE: REQUEST FOR MULTIPLE SOLE SOURCING SUPPLY AND DELIVERY OF BUNK BEDS & CLASSROOM FURNITURE FOR SENIOR HIGH SCHOOLS AND DESKS FOR BASIC SCHOOLS" has come up for discussion.
In that letter, the Public Procurement Authority gave approval to the Ministry of Education to use "multiple sole-sourcing method for the supply and delivery of ...Bunk Beds & Classroom Furniture for Senior High Schools and Desks for Basic Schools at a total estimated cost of GHÂÂ¢25,000, 000.00." drawing backing from the Section 40 (1) (b) of the Act.
Section 40 of the procurement Act though, permits Single-Sourcing procurements under very strict conditions. The use of this procedure for procuring classroom furniture, which could otherwise be tendered to ensure a transparent process, has been argued as a possible abuse of the system.
Section 40 (1) states: A procurement entity may engage in single-source procurement under section 41 with the approval of the Board,
(a) Where goods, works or services are only available from a particular supplier or contractor, or if a particular supplier or contractor has exclusive rights in respect of the goods, works or services, and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists;
(b) Where there is an urgent need for the goods, works or services, and engaging in tender proceedings or any other method of procurement is impractical due to unforeseeable circumstances giving rise to the urgency, which is not the result of dilatory conduct on the part of the procurement entity.
Another striking element in this "multiple sole-sourcing" procurement is that many of the contracts were awarded entities outside the region where the items were needed, giving credence to a wide held perception that the contracts were given to cronies and National Democratic Congress functionaries.
For example, the contract for the supply of 750 pieces of bunk beds for the Likpe SHS, Bishop Herman SHS, Kpando Mawuko Girls SHS, Ho Zion College, Anloga Awudome SHS, Tsito - all in the Volta Region were awarded to a contractor in Accra.
Again, items needed in the Central Region found its way to a contractor in Hohoe in the Volta Region or up north. A typical example is the contract for the supply of 800 mono desks to Adaklu Anyigbe, which was contracted to a contractor in Wa.
The controversial distribution of the contracts for the procurements of items under the multiple sole sourcing has also raised the question of whether there are no competent entities within the individual regions to make the supplies.
A careful glance through the document also revealed that some supplies sourced from contractors outside the regions in which the items were needed, quoted higher figures.
For example, the Accra-based contractors who supplied 750 bunk beds to the Wa Islamic SHS; Wa Tech. Institute, and some senior high schools in Jirapa quoted GH¢200,625.00, whereas their counterparts who made the supplies in the regions in which the items were needed quoted figures ranging between GH¢196,875.00 and GH¢198,750.00.