The government wants to enact a new law that will overhaul the entire public procurement cycle and allow for blacklisting of contractors who are found guilty of failing to pay their workers, or to pay for procured goods or services during the implementation of contracts.
Presenting the new draft law, the Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Uzziel Ndagijimana, said that the proposed legislation will also require the procuring entity to do follow-ups to ascertain whether all those concerned had been paid.
"The draft law also proposes that the procuring entity must be sure that all workers, and goods and services acquired from third parties while executing the contract were paid by the contractor. If the latter failed to pay, the procuring entity shall deduct such payments from the invoice of the contractor to make the payments," he said on Tuesday.
The changes to the Law on Public Procurement also seek to legislate e-Procurement which is designed to facilitate the procurement process for the future but also to support Made-In-Rwanda drive in what Ndagijimana says will make the public procurement legal framework more efficient and effective.
The e-Procurement system will build a single channel for all public procurement contracts and, once implemented, all procedures in government procurement will be conducted online.
While the current law provides for a 10 per cent local preference to regional bidders in economic blocs of which Rwanda is a member like the East African Community and COMESA, Ndagijimana said that the draft law proposes preference for goods produced or manufactured in Rwanda in support of the "Made-In-Rwanda" policy.
"In international or national competitive bidding, local preference of fifteen per cent shall be given to goods produced or manufactured in Rwanda during the procurement of goods and to companies registered in Rwanda during the procurement of consultant services. Also, local preference of ten percent shall be given to companies registered in Rwanda during the procurement works and non-consultant services," he said.
MP Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka suggested that there is need to introduce a public procurement policy which can be aligned with entrepreneurship as an opportunity to provide level playing field for both bigger contractors and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
"If SMEs are now going to be given opportunities to compete, we should therefore find ways to train them on standards, quality and professional production for bigger markets. There is no policy when it comes to public procurement but it should be worked on so that it can be aligned with entrepreneurship. We have schools, ministries and local councils that need chairs, tables, cupboards etc and by equipping these SMEs, we are promoting plumbing, carpentry and masonry among many others. If we don't align them, then the tenders will continue to go to those with expertise and our SMEs will continue to lag behind," she said.
MP Jean Thierry Karemera commended the timeliness of the draft law and requested that the private sector and the Prosecutor General's Office to participate in the subsquent sessions about the bill.
"This law is timely. I would like to commend the Government for thinking of legal provisions that promote Made In Rwanda. I would like to request that representatives from the private sector, RPPA and the Prosecutor General's Office are available when this draft law goes for review in the standing committee. Let each sector be represented," he said.
MP Theoneste Begumisa Safari agreed with the idea of blacklisting offending contractors, saying that it would go a long way in rooting out such malpractices.
"I agree, a black book is necessary because people commit offences in Rusizi but then move to Kayonza and get tenders but if we had this book, it would be much easier to detect such people," he said.
Over the last decade, the government has undertaken business registration, public finance management and procurement reforms among others.