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New Tender Act adds bureaucratic burden

Although the new public procurement bill has received critical acclaim since Cabinet announced in September 2010 that it wants to repeal the Tender Board Act of 1996 described by many as outdated, this week analysts said the bill in its present format, is likely to increase bureaucracy.
Addressing participants at the launch of the paper – “Risking Corruption: Regional and Local Governance in Namibia”, a member of the National Assembly and Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, Usutuaije Maamberua said the new procurement bill will likely lead to bottlenecks and inefficiency, which will in turn result in what he termed as a “bloated bureaucracy”.
He said: “You see you are going to have a bloated bureaucracy in a centralised system hence the philosophy of decentralising so that the regions can actually take decisions timely. [These] decisions fit within their own circumstances but if you have a centralised system in Windhoek, it may not be responsive enough, it may not even understand the local situations.”
Maamberua said the bill when passed into law, expected to be later in the year, will also give problems because those elected to the new board might not have “the necessary expertise to do all the assessments that fit all the circumstances in Namibia.”
He added: “I think what we need to do is, along the philosophy of decentralisation, we need to empower the regional councils and local authorities to have the capacity to do their own procurement and to do their own monitoring; in fact we need to encourage them also to create their own public accounts committees so that accountability at those levels can also be enhanced. Other countries have done it. In South Africa, the city of Johannesburg and others have their own public accounts committees.”
Although admitting that he had not seen the contents of the new bill, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee said it would be retrogressive if the new bill would result in a centralised procurement system.
“I have not seen the bill so I dont know what is contained in the bill. It’s only information that I am hearing from here that public procurement probably in that bill will be centralised and I am saying should that be the case I think it will not be progressive but rather retrogressive,” he said.
While acknowledging that the new bill is a far better piece of legislation than its predecessor, Graham Hopwood, the Executive Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), also shared Maamberua’s sentiments. He said: “My first reading (of the bill) is that it basically says all public bodies will fall under a national procurement system. So if it’s a parastatal or regional council or a ministry, they are all going to be administered by the same body.
“Now I wouldn’t think that to be a good idea if you centralise everything. It just increases the bureaucracy, adds to the delays and it takes power from the regions so that is the debate but I haven’t got a final position yet on the bill but at the moment the public procurement bill looks like it has a lot of positive developments.”
Government says the current Tender Board Act, does not align with its current policy development  in which procurement should be a central policy tool to achieve socio-economic objectives. The Deputy Minister of Finance, Carl Schlettwein was recently quoted as saying the aim of the new procurement bill is to strengthen empowerment aspects, enhance efficiency of the board and to improve the accountability and transparency of tender procedures and processes.
The new bill is expected to, among others, provide for local economic development by promoting participation of local businesses, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), women and youth entrepreneurs.

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