Namibia’s Procurement Board in the spotlight

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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The establishment of the Central Procurement Board of Namibia (CPBN) was meant to root out corruption and implement a procurement system in a competitive and transparent manner that realises value for money in the best interests of all Namibians.

However, the CPBN has been struggling to function effectively.

Infighting among board of directors, slow approval process, and lack of transparency are just some of the problems engulfing the CPBN.

As a result, awarding of tenders has been moving at a snail’s pace, subsequently resulting in delaying of many projects.

Procurement Tracker Namibia (Issue No.8 of October 2019) by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) states that CPBN was not forthcoming and was not transparent in making information available to the public pertaining to procurement activities.

Two-and-a-half years since the Public Procurement Act was made operational, the procurement system remains mired in problems – not least a series of capacity issues.

“The IPPR’s latest Procurement Tracker bulletin outlines the capacity and transparency issues that are dogging the procurement law’s implementation,” IPPR’s, Frederico Links, noted.

Links highlighted some of the problems encountering the CPBN, which include generally weak oversight of procurement processes at organisational and central government levels; unclear and confusing legal provisions in the law; delays in crafting and implementing regulations; widespread non-compliance on production and publishing of annual and individual procurement plans; large-scale lack of accountability for mismanaging or maladministering procurement processes.

Further problems include significant lack of understanding and misapplication of the law; corruption in procurement processes, transactions and contracts; lapses in integrity; some entities still do not have the required internal organisational procurement structures in place; absence of a public procurement performance assessment mechanism;  and absence of consolidated public procurement data.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein said the claim by IPPR was deviating from the factual information as all procurement activities have been published on the CPBN website as required by the law.

“Information published on the CPBN website includes but not limited to: executive summaries by bid evaluation committees, awards, current bids, board decisions. Members of the public and the media are encouraged to visit the CPBN website on a regular basis,” he said.

Links said one issue that has consistently raised itself as concerning of and bedeviling effective implementation of the Public Procurement Act of 2015 to date, is capacity.

In other words, Links said it had become increasingly clear since April 2017, when the law was operationalised, that the Namibian public sector severely lacks the necessary skills and expertise – basically competent and professional staff – across institutional arrangements, to run a modern and efficient public procurement system.

Schlettwein countered this by saying that the CPBN Board has been working vigorously in addressing the issue pertaining to a lack of human capacity by adopting an organizational structure which resulted in the recruitment of highly skilled and qualified staff members.

“As of 30 October 2019, CPBN staff complement stands just over thirty staff members compared to only under 10 staff members in March 2019.

It is also worth noting that CPBN has advertised a number of vacancies and the recruitment process has started and management has been busy conducting interviews during the month of October. CPBN is desirous to have the majority of the vacancies filled by end of February 2020,” he said. 

 

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