BY KABELO SEITSHIRO
Suddenly after alighting from the driver’s seat at an organization she led for eight years, the outgoing Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) executive chairperson has beef with skewed government tendering processes.
Bridget John has stuck a knife into over reliance in uncompetitive methods employed by government in the tendering processes such as direct appointment and selective tendering by the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC).
In an interview with the Sunday Standard, John holds such kind of tendering denies contractors the opportunity to participate in tenders and also denies government best value as there is often limited competition.
John is all the more worried that the PPADB Board has retained the authority to approve requests for waivers for tenders well above P25 million.
“My hope is that given the crucial role of public procurement in economic growth, government will have to deliberately prioritize the resourcing of the procurement function with skilled personnel and allow PEs [Public Entities] to fully execute the procurement function subject to a proper regulatory authority,” she advised.
John believes there is need for the Board to consider augmenting measures already in place to counter corruption in the tendering process by appointing independent professional probity advisors who understand the procurement environment.
She is of the view that this can be done selectively for high value tenders given conflicting interests that abound in such tenders. She says probity advisors will be transparent and provide full and reliable information to the Board on any misconduct or corrupt activities by parties involved in such tenders for appropriate decisions given that from time to time allegations of corruption are thrown around which are difficult to verify.
She said that the Board will need funding to improve probity hence it may need to widen the scope of its cost recovery initiatives.
“Procurement by its nature is prone to corruption the world over. This is why the PPADB has mapped risks at every stage of the procurement cycle and identified measures to mitigate such risks and keep tenders clean,” said John.
She observes that it is easy to make corruption allegations and not so easy to prove those adding that some of the perceptions are driven by lack of information and understanding of procurement.
The PPADB as consequence has resolved to step up its public education activities. She believes where corruption exists, it needs to be reported and investigated.
John said the PPADB has consistently called on members of the public to use the tip-off anonymous service it has established so that the procuring entity may address issues with competent authorities.
She said she was alive to the fact that allegations of corruption existed but wondered what the conviction rate relating to corruption in central government tenders stands at.
Her position is that the process of suspension and delisting of contractors is very fair as it gives companies a hearing so that both sides are taken into consideration when a decision is made.
She said in the past, reported breaches have included failure by contractors to perform contracts, supply of cheaper and substandard products and unethical behavior such as submitting fabricated documents to the PPADB to unduly benefit from public tenders.
“When I took office at the PPADB on the 1st February 2011, my priorities were to improve the tendering environment in terms of making it more accessible, ethical and efficient, transparent as well as improve overall adherence to general governance principles at PPADB. My goal was to effectively enable government to deliver planned projects through a credible procurement system that yields value,” said John.