Namibia: Government Welcomes Private Unsolicited Bids

12 November 2019

The finance ministry says the government welcomes unsolicited bids through aligned public entities, but it appears the private sector is afraid of competition.

The executive director in the finance ministry, Ericah Shafudah, said this while responding to questions on why the Public Private Partnership Act does not allow the private sector to propose projects to the government, as opposed to the current status where only the state can ask the private sector for collaboration.

The question-and-answer session happened at the one-day public-private partnership (PPP) conference last Friday in the capital.

Shafudah also indicated that those who do not want to go for competitive bidding are just afraid because they cannot deliver as per expectation.

She explained that her being brutal in her observation was not shooting unique proposals down.

"We are not discouraging unsolicited proposals; we like your ideas. Unfortunately, we are going to subject this idea to competition," she said.

She added that even when competition arises, unsolicited bidders have a benefit during project evaluations as the committee will acknowledge their ideas, and points/scores will be allocated to certain elements of the projects, but not upfront.

James Mnyupe, the chairperson of the PPP committee, and who was part of the PPP expert panel at the event, said the main reason why unsolicited bids are avoided is to maximise potential for value for money.

The government, or the aligned entities which are involved in the procuring of the goods or services, makes sure that through a competitive process, the best service is being provided at the most affordable cost.

He also explained that evaluating unsolicited bids is quite complex, and requires a well-informed and competent evaluation team to ensure that a beneficial deal is sealed.

Supporting Shafudah, Mnyupe said if an individual or company has an idea, they should go and test their ideas with the aligned government agency.

Reviewing unsolicited bids also consumes time, which causes aligned public entities to spent so much time reviewing instead of doing what they are mandated to do, considering the level of development within the PPP units of public entities.

The acting director of the PPP unit, Rauna Mukumangeni said they do not allow unsolicited bidding because of the issue of intellectual property rights involved with new ideas and concepts.

"It's challenging when it comes to intellectual property protection, and since we do not have enough capacity, it was deemed fit not to accommodate unsolicited proposals," she observed.

Mukumangeni added that the private-public-partnership regulations allow individuals with proposals to engage the aligned ministries which have the mandate to implement the type of project one wants to run.

The public entity will then do an assessment if they find any merit in a project, and then register it with the PPP committee.

The audience also expressed concern that being sent to public entities could be a waste of time as the public entities have no internal strategy in place to handle unsolicited bids.

Namibia Wildlife Resorts' chief operations officer Sebulon Chicalu said since the act is silent on how public entities can deal with unsolicited proposals, the state agencies should start drafting their own internal strategies.

He stated that an internal strategy on how to deal with unsolicited bids will guide the entity in either refusing, accepting a bid, as well as to tell if it is in line with such an entity's objectives, and what the entity is pursuing at that moment. If not, it will just be back and forth dialogue between the entity and the business people, without anything productive being passed.

Chicalu said there are good ideas coming through from the private sector, and public entities need to respond by having competent capacity to ensure the deals are done in a transparent manner.

The conference was held by the Ministry of Finance, in conjunction with Standard Bank Namibia.

In August this year at the economic growth summit, finance minister Calle Schlettwein said he hopes to see public-private partnership agreements that reflect market realities, ensure win-win opportunities for both parties, and avoid unnecessary disputes.

Speaking during a breakaway session at the summit, Barthelemy Littot of GIDE, a German government law consulting firm, said although unsolicited bids are mostly popular, governments can still use such and put out a tender on the same bid, just to get a better deal.

This appears to talk to what Shafudah said, and is most likely what the government and state agencies would do when they are approached with an unsolicited bid.

Some analysts have said that unsolicited bids normally involve innovation and creativity, and it will be unfair should they be put out in the public for others to then expand on a project that at times had cost the initiator much time and resources to come up with.

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