Namibia: State Buyers Need More Legal Understanding

OFFICIALS dealing with the tendering processes in public enterprises, government agencies and local authorities require more understanding of the Public Procurement Act if disputes, which sometimes are settled in court, are to be avoided.

This is one of the resolutions of the Namibia Procurement Conference held in Windhoek recently. The conference enlightened more than 60 procurement officers drawn from state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and local authorities as well as suppliers on the provisions of the Public Procurement Act.

Tenders awarded by SOEs and local authorities have been a subject of many court disputes in recent years.

Ester Kuugongelwa, a senior official with the Procurement Policy Unit of the Ministry of Finance, said most discussions and questions

during the conference centred around the interpretation of the Procurement Act when tenders are prepared or the disputes that come after bids are awarded.

"There are issues about the interpretation of the law basically. In some areas you can see there is a lack of awareness on the part of officials. We have to create awareness on these issues," she said.

Julia Itana, the procurement manager at the Roads Authority said the impact of poorly drafted bidding documents include continuous complaints from bidders, unqualified bidders winning tenders, delays in contract implementation, and added that poorly drafted documents may cause perceptions of corruption.

On the other hand, Kuugongelwa noted that there is confusion regarding the operations of the Procurement Policy Unit, which regulates the procurement of goods, works and services and the Central Procurement Board of Namibia, whose duty is to conduct the bidding process on behalf of public entities.

"Most of the time, the public confuses the role of the two institutions. "We need to focus on creating awareness on how the procurement process works."

Another speaker at the conference, Maggy Uuyuni, who addressed the topic of corruption and conflict of interest, noted that emergency, direct and restricted methods of procurement are the most vulnerable methods to abuse due to reduced levels of transparency.

Moreover, Uuyuni said there was a need to prevent conflicts of interest from morphing into corruption by training officials on procedures for handling conflicts of interest.

Furthermore, she said conflicts of interest and corruption can be reduced through open competitive bids, transparency, and the involvement of stakeholders like the Anti-Corruption Commission, private sector organisations, civil society, the media and the general public in the procurement process.

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