Finance minister Calle Schlettwein has rejected claims of secrecy surrounding the awarding of public procurement tenders, saying all information is available for the public to inspect.
The minister said this last week in response to claims made by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) that there was a lack of transparency from the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN).
In their recent procurement tracker write-up, the IPPR accused the procurement board of not being forthcoming, citing a lack of transparency in making information available to the public pertaining to procurement activities.
According to the minister, this is not true.
Quoting the law which has been partially applied, Schlettwein said the board is governed by the Public Procurement Act, and in terms of Section 55 (8), the board is required to promptly and in the prescribed manner publish a notice of every procurement or disposal award, together with the executive summary of the bid evaluation report.
The minister added that the information published on the CPBN website includes executive summaries by bid evaluation committees, awards, current bids, and board decisions. Members of the public and the media are encouraged to visit the CPBN website on a regular basis.
"The claim by the IPPR is deviating from factual information, as all procurement activities have been published on the CPBN website, as required by the law," the minister stated.
The IPPR also said other than the issue of transparency, there was widespread non-compliance in the production and publishing of annual and individual procurement plans, lapses in integrity, as well as numerous instances where public entities still did not have the required internal organisational procurement structures in place.
There are about 178 public sector procuring entities in Namibia.
Central to the criticism of the procurement engine's efficacy was also the issue of competence. According to government documents, some entities have "public procurement staff who have not followed a formal course in purchasing and supply management, and most of them have as qualifications Grade 10 or Grade 12".
Responding to the question of competence at procurement board level, the minister said new staff have been recruited.
"I am pleased to announce that the CPBN board has addressed the issue of [the] lack of human capacity by adopting an organisational structure, which resulted in the recruitment of highly skilled and qualified staff members. As of 30 October 2019, the CPBN staff complement stands at just over 30 staff members, compared to only under 10 staff members in March 2019," he explained.
The IPPR's public procurement tracker has on various occasions voiced its misgivings regarding the ills in the public procurement sphere, and the government has in most cases been defensive in their responses. The procurement trackers are available on the IPPR's website.
In his mid-term review budget statement last month Schlettwein had admitted that there were some inefficiencies within the procurement sphere and has called on agencies to act on them.
He said there was specificallly a need to accelerate the turnaround time for public procurement projects adjudication and award , particularly for high-value projects across economic sectors.
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