Monday, May 23, 2022

Conflict of interest mars FCC tendering systems

Former Francistown mayor and now specially elected councilor, Peter Ngoma, has called for the removal of councilors from the finance committee of the Francistown City Council.

The finance committee is responsible for the awarding of tenders and contracts by the City Council.

Ngoma said the councilors’ membership of the committee creates a case for potential conflict of interest and constitutes a basis for bias and unfairness.

He said this is in view of the fact that councilors have businesses and companies that tender for council contracts.

Ngoma’s calls for reforms come in the wake of accusations that councilors have fully joined the corruption mud-puddle.

In a number of instances, councilors in Francistown have been accused of unfairly competing with their constituents so much as to use their influence to wrestle the tender committee into awarding tenders to their friends and themselves.

A good number of councilors run companies which do business with the City Council.

Contractors also complain that some companies which have a record of underperforming and abandoning projects are repeatedly awarded jobs.

This casts doubts on the integrity of the FCC.

Only a few weeks in his job, the Francistown City Clerk, David Modisagape, took an unpopular decision to reverse some of the tenders for security services.

This was after it was found that councilors and some officials had awarded the tenders to their companies.

This had led the business community to accuse councilors of unfair competition and abdicating what is their core responsibility.

Councilors are also accused of giving tenders to their friends and families.

“This spate of mishaps is a result of favoritism and corruption by FCC officers,” said one contractor.

In October last year, the auditor general’s report revealed that the Francistown City Council was behind in submitting its audited books of accounts and also revealed scathing irregularities and discrepancies in the way the council handled its accounts, stopping short of accusing the FCC of corruption.

Ngoma, an established businessman, said councilors should not be part of the tender adjudication process as the majority of them have businesses that deal with the city council.

There is a clear potential for conflict of interest, he said.

He said recusal and declaration of interest will not be enough as councilors would still peddle their influence when outside.

“One cannot be the player and the referee at the same time,” charged Ngoma.

The former mayor said that the best alternative is to establish an independent tender committee that comprises of council technical staff and even some people from outside the council such that there is an element of fairness.

In conclusion, Ngoma said that establishing technical teams within ministries alone was not enough, urging government to tighten its straps on the civil service as a majority of them are not productive.” A lot of good policies that were established before went down the drain because the civil service does not go the extra mile to ensure that such policies actually work,” he said.

Local contractors in Francistown also complain that staff is almost always guaranteed the biggest jobs at the expense of more deserving and capable contractors.
This is because, as technocrats, staff also sits on the committees that award tenders.

About two years ago, the FCC found itself stranded with a handful of incomplete projects after contractors abandoned them and vanished with millions of government funds.

Another controversial project has been the Francistown bus rank which was abandoned by the contractor midway through its construction. The cost of the construction, which was budgeted at P8.9 million, escalated to P13 million after the FCC was forced to engage another contractor to finish the project.

Tati Town Primary School which was budgeted for P10 million was also abandoned midway.
The construction of Donga Primary School, which was budgeted at P12 million, was also delayed after the contractor vanished with P8.1 million in payments made to him by government.

The project ended up costing a whooping P19 million after they were forced to engage another contractor.


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