POOR tendering procedures are damaging economic growth and often result in incomplete projects due to cost escalations, Policy Implementation minister Webster Shamu has said.
Shamu told a special meeting on the operations of the State Procurement Board last week that the procurement process needed to be improved to avoid situations in which government embarks on projects that were not viable economically.
“I wish to point out that the problems of procurement are multifaceted. They range from poor accounting in government ministries to poor co-ordination between the ministries and the State Procurement Board,” Shamu said.
The procurement board, Shamu said, authorises the disbursements of millions of dollars through the tender system by awarding major projects to contractors of government projects.
Stakeholders at the meeting expressed concern at the board’s delays in processing tenders and adjudicating bids. They said in some cases it was taking between five to 12 months to get tenders approved.
Shamu said poor tendering has undermined economic development and resulted in high budget deficits.
He said in some cases it was downright dishonesty by public officials.
The minister said the government was unable to effectively manage its procurement system.
“We are unable to effectively manage the procurement system in government and we risk losing the gains of the monetary and economic reforms being experienced in the country,” said Shamu.
He said lack of capacity in the public sector to effectively evaluate projects and apply sound judgement when dealing with public projects was part of the problem.
“In some cases the processes have been slow and cumbersome leading to payments of bribes and corruption,” Shamu said.
The permanent secretary in the policy implementation ministry, Desire Sibanda, who was chairing the meeting, said his ministry was organising workshops to ensure public servants understand the process.
“The workshops are important because procurement accounts for about a quarter of the gross domestic product representing a huge expenditure in our fiscus,” said Sibanda.
Stakeholders called on the procurement board to reconsider the time it takes to award tenders, saying the longer the board takes the more expensive goods become due to increases.
“We must take note of the market dictates and avoid time-consuming bureaucracy. Operations of procurement committees are seriously affected by these delays,” said Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai, the deputy secretary for policy and procurement in the Ministry of Defence.
He said the board has a tendency to ignore and sideline small and medium-scale enterprises in preference to big companies which they assume have the capacity to provide goods and services.