This Week In The Khuta – Will the Tender Board ever pass the corruption test?
The Tender Board has for various reasons been associated with corruption. Whether such suspicions are justified or not is difficult for me to say since no high profile official of the board has been successfully prosecuted in the past for corruption.
However, the absence of any prosecution does not mean that there are no corrupt individuals who sit on the Tender Board. It will be naive of anyone to think that only angels sit on the Tender Board. Be that as it may, one cannot help but notice recent attempts by the board to spruce up its image in the public eye. For what it is worth, I think it is a welcome development.
The route taken by the board is welcome in that, for years now the Tender Board has been living in secrecy. In the past, no reasons were given for an unsuccessful bid, and according to the Chairperson of the Board Ericah Shafudah, after the passing of the new Tender Board Act, expected to become law this year, the board will publish reasons why a company was not successful in its application for a government tender.
Publishing names of both the successful and unsuccessful companies will go a long way to ensure a certain degree of transparency. We cannot have the same companies winning tenders all the time; tenders should be inclusive and should allow for broad-based empowerment. Hopefully this will put to an end the public mistrust of the board.
While the nation waits excitedly on the new Tender Board Act that will make it compulsory for foreign companies to concede 51% ownership to locals for them to be considered for any government tender, I wonder what mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that no fronting will take place just to satisfy the requirements of the law? We know of certain individuals that have become masters of fronting. How will these be dealt with in the new law? We need real empowerment not this kind where only a few individuals benefit.
It is also worth mentioning that the Tender Board needs to be capacited in order to have inspectors that can follow up on projects to see whether work is being carried out according to specifications in the contracts. Having seen some of the projects being built with TIPEEG money in small towns, I was surprised to see the kind of inferior material that is being used.
Having inspectors will minimise the tendency of individuals or companies using public tenders as a get rich quick scheme. Inspectors will ensure that the country doesn’t move in circles because if we allow shoddy work to be done on projects tendered for, Government will have to spend more money renovating buildings that were hastily done or done using cheap materials. This should not be allowed.
While it is important to reserve certain tenders for 100% owned Namibian companies, it goes without saying that there is need for these companies to be capacited so that they can deliver according to expectations. Though Affirmative Action is important, if people are not capacited to handle the projects that would have been awarded to them, this will prove costly to the country in the end.
Lessons from the Development Bank of Namibia has shown that SMEs that are being empowered by the bank through loans to start their own projects or to enable them to satisfy the requirements of a public tender are pushing the impairment ratio of the bank to unsustainably high levels. The high defaulting rate comes down to the fact that in most cases, these businesses do not possess the necessary human resources and financial skills to efficiently run their projects causing them to run into financial problems and not completing the projects on time.
I hope the new act will put an end to the current practice were Chinese companies are getting the lion share of construction projects when local companies have the capacity to tackle such projects. The new Tender Board Act should be strict in awarding tenders to the Chinese, particularly if the work can be carried out successfully by a local company.
Again if the Tender Board wants to be taken serious and shake off the corruption tag that has been associated with it for a long time, a situation where more than 60% of projects are exempted from going to tender, should be avoided otherwise the public will doubt the sincerity of the Tender Board.