Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Constantino Chiwenga has implored procurement officers to uphold the highest degree of ethics and transparency in executing their duties as procurement is central to achieving the country’s development objectives.
Officially opening the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) inaugural annual conference in Victoria Falls yesterday, Dr Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care said members of the public who fail to report acts of corruption by any public or private sector official are also guilty of corruption, a cancer that threatens the country’s development.
Dr Chiwenga said procurement plays a pivotal regulatory role in the entire public sector as he bemoaned high levels of non-compliance in the sector.
The VP said the Covid-19 pandemic created significant corruption opportunities and procurement law compliance challenges, not only in Zimbabwe but also across the globe.
He said Zimbabwe had, through various agencies such as PRAZ and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), developed several initiatives to uproot the scourge in public procurement.
He warned citizens against protecting corrupt individuals saying doing so equally makes one guilty of graft.
“Indeed, crisis and emergencies create a good unjust enrichment opportunity to those with a high propensity for corruption. Thus, even in the wake of an emergency, men and women in Government ministries, departments and agencies as well as suppliers in the private sector should commit and practice the highest standards of transparency, honesty and ethical behaviour in their dealings in public procurement,” said Dr Chiwenga.
“Responding to participants during a recent engagement I had in Dubai with the Zimbabwean Diaspora in the Persian Gulf region, I pointed that as a citizen, one was equally corrupt if when aware of corruption which had taken place, was unwilling or afraid to expose perpetrators by reporting the matter to the responsible authorities.
Within the context of this conference, I would like to make it clear that if a public procurement official solicits or extorts a bribe from you, but you are unwilling or afraid to expose the official by reporting the crime, it means that you are not only equally to blame but also corrupt.”
He said businesses should not only target making profits but adhere to laws meant to curb corruption.
The VP said President Mnangagwa is leading from the front to ensure that Zimbabwe quickly scales up the development ladder through implementation of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) on its journey towards attainment of an empowered and prosperous upper middle income society by 2030.
The conference, he said, does not only fulfil one of PRAZ’s functions in terms of Section 6 (1) (h) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDPA) Act Chapter 22:23 which requires the authority to promote the training and professional development of persons engaged in public procurement to ensure their adherence to high ethical standards, but also to share lessons from other countries’ experiences in public procurement especially during this era of Covid-19 era.
He commended PRAZ for organising the first ever procurement conference that seeks to enhance the efficiency and integrity of public procurement even when undertaken under the circumstances of an emergency.
Dr Chiwenga challenged procurement entities to capacitate their officers with understanding of procurement laws as there is a “misleading popular belief that procurement rules are set aside during emergencies.”
“Let me point out that since it provides for the restricted bidding and direct procurement methods, the PPDPA Act does not provide for public procurement to be conducted in an emergency mode but with a proviso that the circumstances of urgency should not have been created by the willful and inept conduct of the officials in the procuring entity.
“Like any other law, the PPDPA Act is not perfect. Admittedly it has some gaps and inadequacies but these are being addressed through amendments that have been proposed after some stakeholder consultation. These gaps and inadequacies are not an excuse for failing to implement the existing provisions in the procurement law for the execution of procurements as urgent where circumstances justify doing so,” he said.
He said the overarching objective of the PPDPA Act is to ensure that public procurement is conducted in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest and cost effective.
The VP said the process should never be compromised even under the reduced competition circumstances justified by the existence of emergency and crisis situations.
He said emergencies such as Cyclone Idai and Covid-19 had shown the need for speedy procurement during emergencies.
Government business does not come to a halt during a crisis or an emergency, added Dr Chiwenga.
He reiterated that public procurement must be characterised by both efficiency and integrity or the absence or corruption.
The VP said it is Praz’s duty as the regulator to issue technical guidelines to assist procuring entities.
“As Government we expect all procurement entities without exception to handle emergencies with efficiency and integrity. I have no doubt in my mind on the importance of public procurement in the socio-economic development of any nation. This requires the conduct of public procurement to conform to the dictates of public policy in each nation. Such conduct should stimulate the implementation policy choices made by Governments rather than stifle it,” he said.
“As Government we are concerned about the low levels of compliance by procuring entities with the procurement law as reported by Praz. Three years after implementation of procurement reforms began, compliance levels are still far from where we want them to be. We are now past our two-year transitional period during which we expected all our procuring entities to acquaint themselves fully with the procurement law and for the practitioners to self-develop by acquiring professional qualifications. We were expecting 100 percent compliance by this time and nothing less.”
Dr Chiwenga implored procurement practitioners to work hard to earn respect as a profession, saying Government and Praz will help capacitate procurement officers with training.
“Your professional and ethical conduct must be always beyond reproach. Acquiring procurement qualification alone will not make you into a professional. It is how you behave and conduct yourselves in discharge of your duties that makes you one in the eyes of the beholder. You should develop a reputation of high quality efficient service with integrity rather than to become notorious for making things not happen,” he said.
Be bemoaned ignorance of the legal provisions and absence of servanthood by procurement entities.
The conference which ended yesterday, was held under the theme: “Balancing emergencies with efficiency and integrity.” — @ncubeleon