LOCAL Government Minister Gary Nkombo says the behaviour of wanting to procure things at exorbitant prices should be a thing of the past.

And Nkombo says there is a need for a communication protocol to be established between the local authority and the ministry.

Launching CDF guidelines in Livingstone, Wednesday, Nkombo said the procurement divisions were partly to blame for government’s failure to deliver because of inflating prices.

“As you procure goods and services and as you prevail, as you supervise the procurement divisions, who by the way if resources permitted should have been here to hear for themselves that they are part of the thorn in the flesh, why we have failed to deliver to our people because of inflating prices, because of getting substandard works and goods. So the President’s message is simple that let us adhere to these three principles of quality delivery, timely delivery, of a non compromising market price index,” he said.

“I need you to understand that yesterday is gone. The behaviour of wanting to procure things at exaggerated prices should be the thing of the past. What we learn is that most councils are culprits starting from the top. You decide to deliberately ignore the issue of the market price index. Why would you buy a bag of cement at K180 when it is K135? Those are the questions you must answer on your own.”

Nkombo recalled some challenges he faced in the previous administration while trying to procure boreholes.

“Mr Nkulukusa shared with you what I shared with him on the breakfast table about a certain council who are here, two of them. One in Lusaka Province, another one in Eastern Province, but allow me to use the council where I belong as an example so that you can understand the frustration that comes as a result of what one would call processes and procedure in order for them to achieve the inflation of a price were a commodity that cost K27,000 could even go for K60,000,” he said.

“[What] we experienced in Mazabuka council were the officers in procurement, the officers in the water department simply refused to procure boreholes for K27,000, they just said no. And they told me as an opposition member of parliament at that time that there are some governing rules in government. ‘We need to do a pump test and factor in the price’, ‘we need to make quality assurance of the water’ and I said no you cannot tell me quality assurance of water because you have no control of what comes out once you punch drill. We could not procure those boreholes for over a year, back and forth movements. After protracted arguments and fights with officers of the council, we managed to buy the boreholes for K 29, 000, six of them.”

And Nkombo said there was a need for a communication protocol to be established between the local authority and the ministry.

“As we get into this particular new era, let us open a communication protocol which is useful where you find challenges. Don’t sit back, quickly communicate to the permanent secretary and say you are finding challenges here. Over the breakfast table I was sharing that one thing I see here and one of my PS came to me and said ‘why don’t we consider rolling out 50 percent of the bursaries allocation instead of 100 percent so that we see how it runs for at least the next three months’. I immediately agreed with him and said yes we can,” he said.

“We will be depending on you and that is why I’m talking about a communication protocol between the local authority and the ministry so that we can quickly identify the weak points, and so that together we can get it right. We need one another to get this completely right so that the impact to that common citizen, to that double orphan can be impacted as well.’

He further challenged the council to prove to “doomsayers” that they had the capacity to manage the increased CDF funds.

“Government resolves that as this decentralization comes, it comes with huge and enormous responsibility bestowed on yourselves. I am quite sure that the doomsayers who have said that you distinguished ladies and gentlemen have no capacity to manage this fund, it is your challenge indeed to prove them wrong. At the time of the pronouncement, I think there was excitement but I want to be specific, the party in opposition inside Parliament there is only one. The nameless party came and said ‘no no, the town clerks have no capacity, this money will be wasted’. Do you believe that? I want us to be sincere with each other, do you believe you have no capacity to prudently manage this?” questioned Nkombo.

“In any case, this fiscal decentralization is contained in our constitution. So sitting at my spot for the moment as a person who is superintending over the councils, I would like to say that please, please prove them wrong. In proving them wrong you need to change your mindset, you also need to believe that yesterday is gone.”