The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) has waived some requirements to facilitate swift procurement of supplies to fight the novel coronavirus (Covid-19)pandemic, sparking calls
to check against abuse. for strong monitoring mechanisms In an interview yesterday, PPDA director general Elias Hausi said the authority has adopted open tendering process which will see interested suppliers and government making submissions within 24 hours.
Under the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act, public entities are required to source three quotations when procuring goods and services. The law also provides a 30-day period under national competitive bidding and 45 days in case of international competitive bidding.
While welcoming the waiver in view of the fact that Covid-19 is an emergency, civil society organisations (CSOs) have challenged the authority to develop strong monitoring mechanisms to ensure transparency, accountability and avert corruption in the procurement process.
Explaining the new measures, Hausi said information relating to contracts, successful suppliers or bidders and the amount will be published both on the websites of both the PPDA and the procuring entity.
He said: “Covid-19 items will not be procured through requests for quotations. They cannot also be procured through restricted tendering.
“Considering the urgency of the requirements, the period will be shortened to a minimum of 24 hours to ensure that a tender is uploaded on the website and ensure that not much time is wasted in the procurement of materials related to Covid-19.”
Hausi said the duration has been reduced to 24 hours because there is an urgent need for Covid-19 materials, including personal protective equipment (PPE) to be supplied to all health facilities and other strategic places.
The open tendering process, he said, will be open to the public who will also have access to information on contract awards and their value.
But the National Anti- Corruption Alliance (NAP)— which comprises Church and Society of Livingstonia Synod of CCAP, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Youth and Society (YAS) and Malawi Law Society (MLS)—and the Open Contracting Multi- Sectoral Group (OC-MSG) have said there is more to be done than merely announcing the new measures.
NAP chairperson Moses Mkandawire applauded PPDA for the new measures, but expressed fear that the waiver has the potential to breed corruption if not backed by strong monitoring mechanisms.
He said: “In times of emergencies like this one, we need to loosen up and that is quite commendable. But sometimes when we loosen up, some politicians take advantage of the situation.
“What government needs to do is to ensure that there a strong monitoring mechanism. We need a monitoring mechanism because people would inflate prices of commodities. When they do that, it will be fraud on its own.” do is to ensure that there
On its part, OC-MSG— comprising Construction Sector Transparency (CoST), CHRR, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), Malawi Economic Justice Network, Council for Non- Governmental Organisations (Congoma) and Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC)—has been advocating for the adoption of open tendering to ensure transparency and accountability.
In an interview yesterday, OC-MSG vice-chairperson Joe Ching’ani commended PPDA for the measures, but urged authorities to realise that despite the waiver there are laws governing procurement.
He said: “Personally, I applaud PPDA for coming up with guidance on how Covid-19 material procurement should be done. But it is one thing to lay down procedures and totally a different thing to ensure compliance. The law itself has punitive measures against the person found flouting rules.
“The law should be complied with. You cannot be the same person overseeing and be the person supplying.”
Section 33 of PPDA Act provides for punitive sanctions to any person found contravening procurement regulations.
On how the authority will deal with political interference, Hausi said the procurement committees at institutional level will observe the same processes of selecting the bidders.
In his address titled ‘Remarks by the Right Honourable State Vice-President of the Republic of Malawi on the National Situation and Response to Covid-19’ on Sunday evening, the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima alleged that some Cabinet ministers were directly or through their cronies involved in sourcing quotations for the supply of Covid-19 materials.
He said procurement plans should be put in place to ensure that the required supplies, including PPE, do not run out of stock mid-way through the response.
Chilima also cautioned against using “politically-connected middlemen” to procure the items from abroad and suggested: “One would have expected that government through the Central Medical Stores Trust and using diplomatic channels was going to procure these items directly from abroad [unless some credible local supplier has them off-the-shelf] in order to save both time and scarce resources