8 August 2012

Zimbabwe: 'No Need to Penalise Firms Over Incomplete Projects'

THERE is need to impose penalties on companies that fail to complete projects awarded to them through the State Procurement Board, Parliament heard yesterday. The legislators say this is part of efforts to strengthen efficiency and transparency in the tendering system.

The Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion said there was need for proper monitoring for those firms that won tenders to avoid delays in completing projects.

The Committee said this when it tabled a report on the operations of the SPB.

The report tabled by Kambuzuma MP, Mr Willias Madzimure (MDC-T) says projects less than US$100 000 should be adjudicated without the involvement of SPB.

The SPB is currently being overwhelmed by bids.

"The Committee was concerned about the lack of a monitoring mechanism to ensure that non-performing contractors are held to account. It established serious shortcomings in terms of implementing and monitoring of contracts awarded by the SPB," said Mr Madzimure while tabling the report.

"The SPB apparently has no interest in the outcome of contracts and argued that the implementing agency has the responsibility of monitoring implementation, yet in some cases their recommended contractors will have been ignored. The Committee proposes the introduction of a stage return system, which compels accounting officers to update the SPB on developments relating to the execution of contracts on a regular basis and a final report and assessment of value for money when the contract is completed and handed over."

Zvishavane MP, Cde Obert Matshalaga (Zanu-PF), echoed the same sentiments saying there was need for punitive actions for those who took long to complete projects.

"There is a legislative weakness as there are no penalties if companies fail to perform. The SPB just awards tenders, the supervision is left entirely to different entities."

The Committee also recommended that the SPB decentralise information dissemination through establishment of a website and forms that could be found on the internet.

Stakeholders cited the challenge arising from the centralisation of the SPB offices in Harare.

They argued that the advertising of tenders in The Herald left those outside the capital in the cold.

"Contractors outside the main cites also have challenges in collecting tender documents and submitting bids. To them the tender process is both costly and time-consuming as it demands that one travels to Harare, resulting in some cases, disqualification arising from the late submission of documents," read the Committee report.

"To circumvent this challenge, the Committee agrees with stakeholders' proposal for the decentralisation of the SPB offices beginning with the major towns. Stakeholders also proposed that the SPB should establish a website from which forms can be downloaded and documents submitted electronically for the Board's consideration."

The Committee also noted that there were delays in awarding of tenders, a development that culminates in the delay of project implementation and escalation of prices of goods and services.

"The SPB blamed some of the delays on the procurement entities, which failed to observe the 15 working days stipulation to adjudicate tenders and submit recommendations to the SPB" said Mr Madzimure.

"The Committee submits that the maximum time the SPB should take in processing projects of a complex nature should be three months and the rest should be disposed of in relatively shorter periods of time. The Administrative Court should assist by giving priority to appeals on the SPB decisions brought to its attention."

It was also noted that SPB was hamstrung by lower staff complement than what is required.

"The Committee therefore proposes that all tenders with a value of less $100 000 be awarded without review but that they be submitted to the SPB for oversight and audit," read the report.

The Committee noted that foreign firms being awarded tenders were sidelining local suppliers even if they were readily available and affordable.

It was noted that some foreign firms were bringing their own labour, bricks and other raw materials.

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