Of late, there have been media reports that Ministry of Health (MoH) top officials that include Principal Secretary Dan Namarika bought vehicles against the public procurement law. But in this interview with our Mzuzu Bureau Supervisor JOSEPH MWALE, Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Authority acting director general TIMOTHY KALEMBO says the disposal was carried out under the old centralised system.
Briefly, what has been the process of disposal of public goods in Malawi?
Before the passing of the PPD Act of 2017, the disposal of public assets was centralised. This meant that there was a central body which was responsible of disposing the public assets from various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). For mechanical assets the central body was PVHO [now PVHES]. Under that centralised disposal system, assets were classified into two major categories: office equipment and plant and machinery
The process was initiated by the government MDAs by listing assets as unserviceable. However, the actual disposal was conducted by a Board of Survey comprising representatives from PVHES [formerly PVHO], Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services, Accountant General, Auditor General and Treasury. Therefore, PPDA, then operating as Office of the Director of Public Procurement [ODPP] was not involved in the disposal of public assets. It was this Board of Survey which came up with the reserve prices after considering the value of the assets.
After passage of the PPD Act 2017, disposal of public assets is now decentralised. This means it is the responsibility of each and every MDA to dispose the public assets. The Board of Survey will now be formed from within the disposing MDA. After determining the reserve prices, the Board of Survey will report to the Internal Procurement and Disposal of Assets Committee for approval to dispose the assets at the proposed prices.
What is your role now as PPDA under the 2017 Act?
Again, just like in public procurement, the PPDA is not expected to carry out the actual disposal. It is the disposing MDA which will conduct the disposal processes. The role of the PPDA will be to regulate, monitor and oversee the manner in which the disposal has been conducted, that is, if all regulations have been complied with.
The other role of the PPDA under the decentralized system of disposal is to grant approvals if the MDA wishes to use a method of disposal apart from auction and invitation of tenders in sealed bids. Under section 38 of the PPD Act, the other methods which the disposing entities are required to seek approval from the Director General are: destruction/writing off, donation, conversion and trade-in.
Want to appreciate if the PPDA was aware of the recent disposal of vehicles at MoH. What procedure was followed for the disposal?
This disposal was carried out under the old centralised system. This was allowed because the disposal process had already commenced in 2017 before the new PPD Act became effective. However, the PVHES in formed this office in their letter dated 1st June 2018 that they were in the process of concluding the disposal of mechanical assets. The letter stated that they had obtained all necessary approvals required under that old centralised system.
The PVHES stated that at the time of writing the letter, the process had already been conducted in some two regions of the country. The letter also said that the projected proceeds were already factored into the budget and any delay would distort the figure and create underperformance. Further the letter stated that the delay was due to the fact that there was no auctioneer who had expressed interest to conduct the disposal in the remaining region. It further said funds covering the disposal process had already been released by Treasury.
What was your advice?
Based on the information available, on June 7 2018 this office acknowledged that this was a continuation of the disposal process which had started before the new Act became effective. Therefore, we allowed the PVHES to proceed using the old centralised process of disposing the mechanical assets. Our new PPD Act would not apply in retrospect. In our letter we advised the disposing entity that they may use the services of the auctioneer who was already in contract with them. We also expressly stated that this was the last time a centralised disposal of mechanical assets was carried out as disposal is now decentralised under the new PPD Act.
There is public outcry that MoH officials acted against the law, what would you say on this?
As indicated above, the law which was applied was the old centralised system of disposal. Under the old law, employees were not prohibited to participate in disposal proceedings of their institutions. This is one of the weaknesses which the old law had and now has been addressed by prohibiting employees participating in the disposal proceedings of their institution. But, in the disposal of motor vehicles at Ministry of Health, the PPD Act could not apply in retrospect since these proceedings had already commenced before the Act became effective.
What are you doing PPDA to enlighten the public on this new law?
Considering that what was applied was the old centralized system of disposal, you will appreciate that ODPP, which preceded PPDA did not play any role. Therefore, as an office PPDA will only strengthen its function of regulating these procurement proceedings. The PPDA also intends to sensitise all relevant stakeholders so that they understand the role of the new PPDA in so far as regulating of disposal of public assets is concerned.