7 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Tender Board's Powers to Go

GOVERNMENT will whittle down powers of the State Procurement Board this year amid reports of corruption and manipulation of processes in the awarding of tenders to bidders. SPB will become a mere regulatory body.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti last Friday said there had been a unanimous decision by Cabinet that the SPB's role of awarding tenders be given to line ministries to improve efficiency.

Alleged underhand dealings at the SPB had resulted in incompetent companies being awarded tenders to do critical Government jobs which they later failed to do.

"The Procurement Act is set to be amended and this will see the SPB being reduced to a regulatory role. All procurements will be done by line Ministries," said Minister Biti.

He said although the SPB was administered by the Office of the President through his ministry, it had continued to award contracts to incompetent firms that had no capacity to deliver.

"We have a scenario where companies that were blacklisted by the Government for incompetence are still being awarded tenders and failing to do the job. How can you tender when you do not have capacity to do the job?" said Minister Biti.

He said the SPB was also taking too long to process and award tenders.

Mr Charles Kuwaza chairs the SPB.

He admitted in June last year that some of his officers corruptly awarded tenders to bidders.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion, Mr Kuwaza said the SPB did not have enough staff to investigate if parastatals and ministries were following the law in procurement.

"The possibility of corruption could be there at the evaluation stage where some people may see that a certain bidder has met all the specifications," said Mr Kuwaza. "They then phone that bidder asking for a payment to facilitate that they win the tender when the bidder was still going to win it because they have met all the requirements."

Several bidders have challenged the SPB's tender awards in the past.

A local company last year took the SPB to the Administrative Court challenging a tender award to a foreign company that charged higher prices.

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