Namibia: Public in the Dark On Procurement

30 September 2020

AROUND 118 public entities failed to reveal what they have been procuring for the past six months, how they have been doing it, and what they will be buying for the next six months.

Despite this contravening certain sections of the Public Procurement Act, no consequence or punishment is prescribed by the act apart from recommendations.

According to the list of public entities with pending annual procurement plans seen by The Namibian, big spenders such as the ministries of defence, mines and energy, trade, urban and rural development, as well as finance, which is the custodian of the procurement policy, are yet to submit their plans.

This is in contravention of the law, which stipulates that no procurement of goods or services should be undertaken without an Annual Procurement Plan (APP) to ensure accountability and transparency in the public sector.

By Monday, only 77 out of 195 (39%) public entities had submitted their annual procurement plans to the procurement policy unit (PPU) of the Ministry of Finance.

Namibia Central Intelligence Service, Financial Intelligence Centre, Roads Authority, Namibia Institute of Pathology, Development Bank of Namibia, Namibian Ports Authority, Offshore Development Company, Namibia Broadcasting Corporation and the country's struggling airline company, Air Namibia, have also not submitted their plans.

A procurement expert who preferred anonymity, The Namibian spoke to indicated that the procurement act was enforced to ensure accountability and transparency in the public sector and to ensure that bidders and taxpayers know how public money is spent.

The expert added that submitting APPs timely also helps local bidders to build capacity and prepare themselves to produce the good or service when the entity goes to market.

He added that APPs would also be used to verify if the entity procured what it indicated through the methods prescribed by the act.

The entities that have not submitted their procurement plans have been procuring goods and services without a plan, which the finance ministry's spokesperson, Tonateni Shidhudhu, said is non-compliance in terms of the act.

Of the municipalities, only Swakopmund and the City of Windhoek have submitted their plans, while Erongo, Oshikoto and Kavango West are the only regional councils that have complied.

Some local authorities do not have websites or the websites are not updated. Therefore, even if they produce APPs, it would not be in the public domain.

"It is the responsibility of every accounting officer to ensure an annual procurement plan is produced. As a result, the procurement management units and the Central Procurement Board of Namibia must ensure that the bidding process does not happen before an individual procurement plan is approved," said Shidhudhu.

In terms of section 25 (4) of the procurement act, an accounting officer must draw up a procurement plan detailing every step of the procurement process and prepare an annual procurement plan, and must certify the availability of funds before starting each procurement process.

Shidhudhu said the PPU is engaging public entities that have not submitted their plans and quarterly reports.

He said previously, some public entities have indicated budget cuts and delays in releasing funds as reasons for late or non-submission of plans and quarterly reports.

"It is also important to note that there is a difference in financial periods for public entities and, therefore, not all public entities are expected to submit procurement plans at about the same time or in terms of the central government's (April-March) financial calendar," said Shidhudhu.

He said where reports are not submitted, accounting officers are reported to their appointing authorities to ensure compliance with the act.

Public entities are continuously reminded to submit annual procurement plans throughout as they have different financial periods, said Shidhudhu.

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