ZAMBIA Institute of Purchasing and Supply (ZIPS) says government gets unfairly attacked over certain contracts because there is no senior procurement officer who can clear the air as well as coordinate that function.
And President Edgar Lungu says Cabinet will consider creating an office to oversee all government procurement in order to restore people’s faith in public transactions.
Speaking when the ZIPS executive paid a courtesy call on President Edgar Lungu, Wednesday, ZIPS president Chibwe Mwelwa said having no high ranking office in charge of procurement subjected the process to manipulation.
“When the World Bank and IMF is trying to look at Zambia, they will look at what kind of procurement procedures you are having. Zambia’s procurement system is one of the best in Africa. We also know that the Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) report and corruption allegations speak very strongly on procurement. The allegations that this government receives, some of them unfairly, most of them border on the procurement process. The FIC report makes a lot of allegations around the manipulation of the procurement process. Procurement has a huge stake in the realization of the plans in transforming Zambia into an industrious middle income prosperous nation to foster socio-economic justice. The first challenge we are having is the low level position of the procurement in government. This is a big problem,” Mwelwa said.
“The highest position one can be in government is deputy director of procurement. We don’t have any director of procurement in government, I think we only have one in the army. It creates a very big problem because then the procurement officer is left to some level of manipulation because he has nowhere to report to. If I am head of procurement in the Ministry of Energy for example, I report to a PS, so if I have a problem with the PS, I don’t have anywhere to report to. The control of funds in government, there will be Finance, internal audit and procurement. So the finance is very well protected with the Accountant General at PS level, Internal audit very well protected at PS level, procurement has been left without any person to help them or look after. This issue of not having legitimate power in the procurement process has resulted in manipulation of the procurement process. There is no anchor in government. Your Excellency, it sounds like a little joke but procurement is not resident in any position in government. There is no individual who is responsible of procurement in government.”
Mwelwa said there was need to create the position of Procurement General.
“We have raised these issues but that problem has created many issues. The problem came because historically, that function was resident in the tender board so the tender board was doing some procurement in the Ministry. When the new act was formed, that role was removed and never replaced. So individuals in the procurement function under the Ministry of Finance are literally not reporting anyone functionally. This is why this country is very unfair by saying ‘the minister has bought this’ some of them who are very funny they even say ‘the President has bought’ because there is no person in government to point at who can explain what happened. And most of those allegations when we listen to them, they are explainable but there is just nobody else who can explain that process,” said Mwelwa.
“Some people attempt to explain but they end up saying wrong things in the process. So we feel that if there is a person in government who can be responsible for that, we would be able to answer a number of these things that they say has become a problem. We are proposing to you today for the position of Procurement General. This Procurement General will ensure that there is value for money and will anchor the procurement process in government. Most people erroneously think that, that is the role of ZPPA but [it] is just a regulator they do not control procurement, they just formulate the laws and make sure they are formulated but the actual implementation in government structure is a very big void.”
And President Lungu said he would consider the recommendations.
“I guess what you are talking about is value for money that is what we are all looking for. How the process of procurement can be restored in terms of integrity in the eyes of inspecting Zambians including those cynical Zambians. Mine is simply to encourage you to ensure that both public and private procurement practitioners in the country strive for value for money and give us hope and confidence in the system. The various proposals that you have made will be made will be considered at looked at by the Minister of Finance and all those others involved in spending resources and also raising the monies,” said President Lungu.
“I think that our government is committed that challenges that you face as procurement agencies are dealt with accordingly. But obviously reshuffles and transfers are the prerogative of the employer. I believe that if I hire a lawyer in government, I am free to deploy that person to work anywhere he could be serving under the Ministry of Justice but I can send them wherever I want to. Similarly, yours as professional colleagues is simply to help us make sure that this function is professionally administered by all those who subscribe to your association. As to whether we should create a big office to be in charge of all the procurement function in the country, I think we will look at it as Cabinet.”