Victoria Falls — The low levels of compliance by public entities is a serious cause for concern as it leaves gap for graft, while businesses should not look at making super profits, but should adhere to the laws that are meant to curb corruption, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has said.
Addressing a Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe inaugural annual conference here last Friday, VP Chiwenga said it was saddening to note that officials from his office who assessed progress in the implementation of various projects countrywide received bad reports on proficiency in the procurement law and its application to situations obtaining om the ground.
"As Government, we are concerned about the low levels of compliance by procuring entities with the procurement law as reported by PRAZ. Three years after the implementation of procurement reforms began, compliance levels are still far from where we want them to be.
"We are now past our two-year transitional period during which we expected all procuring entities to acquaint themselves fully with the procurement law and for practitioners to self-develop by acquiring professional qualifications. We were, therefore, expecting 100% compliance by this time and nothing less," he said.
VP Chiwenga who also launched the PRAZ e-learning portal expressed gratitude to the PRAZ board and management for organizing the conference that sought to enhance the efficiency and integrity of public procurement even when undertaken under the circumstances of an emergency.
"This is because the highest risk of corruption for the Government lies in public procurement. Indeed, crises and emergencies create a good unjust enrichment opportunity to those with a high propensity for corruption.
"Thus, even in the wake of an emergency, the men and women in Government Ministries, departments and Agencies as well as suppliers in the private sector, should commit and practice the highest standards of transparency, honesty and ethical behaviour, in their dealings in public procurement," he said.
VP Chiwenga said corruption in public procurement cannot occur among public sector officials without private sector players conniving with them or abetting their heinous intentions and actions, as it takes two to tango, to commit corrupt acts in public procurement.
"In responding to frustration about corruption that was voiced by one participant during the engagement I recently had in Dubai with the Zimbabwean Diaspora in the Persian Gulf region, I pointed out that as a citizen, one was equally corrupt if, when aware of corruption which had taken place, was unwilling or afraid to expose the perpetrators by reporting the matter to the responsible authorities," he said.
VP Chiwenga said the Covid-19 pandemic has created significant corruption opportunities and procurement law compliance challenges, not only in Zimbabwe, but also across the Globe.
"In response, the Zimbabwe Government through various agencies including PRAZ and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), developed several initiatives to uproot the scourge of corruption in public procurement from among us as a nation.
"From the programme of the conference, I have noted that various experts from around the world have been lined up to share the lessons that they have learned during the pandemic and how best to manage the public procurement corruption risks going forward," he said.
With reference to the e-learning portal, VP Chiwenga said design of the electronic learning system was initiated with the objective of digitizing learning and training material onto an electronic learning platform.
"The portal, which has just undergone successful piloting contains four courses, namely, law sensitization, bidder sensitization, introduction to standard bidding documents and elementary certification training.
"Procurement practitioners and bidders are now able to enrol for online PRAZ training that will equip the learner with knowledge of the PPDPA Act. This is a welcome development that should be appreciated and embraced to improve public procurement for the benefit of the people," he said.
PRAZ board chairperson Mrs Vimbai Nyemba said the low levels of compliance were due to the fact that the unpacking of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The high levels of complacency are not very alarming you know when people are changing, change is very difficult. When you move from one thing to the other there is always resistance, but now l think most of the entities are amenable to change," she said.
VP Chiwenga who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care also urged people to be vaccinated while warning against Covid-19 complacency to avoid a fourth wave.