Monday, June 21, 2021

Trade ministry accused of flouting PPADB procedures

The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI)   allegedly disregarded Public Procurement & Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) procedures and did not follow the proper government procedures when it leased a building at the CBD. 

This revelation came to the fore at the ongoing PAC meetings where the trade ministry was accused of renting office space without following proper PPADB procedures.

 Appearing before the Public Account Committee, Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Trade Ministry and Accounting Officer Peggy Serame acknowledged that last year, PAC ordered the matter to be investigated. She was however not sure whether the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) should be the one to approach her ministry or the other way round. 

PAC member MP Biggie Butale expressed concern saying involving the DCEC in this case is just a delaying tactic on the part of the ministry, adding that he would seek clarity as to whether or not PAC is mandated to carry out independent investigations. Another PAC member MP Dithapelo Keorapetse said someone must be held accountable and that the money owing must be paid back to government. 

“What we are grappling with is that funds were awarded for a building without a clear tendering process. We want to know why the ministry had only one available bidder and why proper procedures were not followed,” said Keorapetse.

PS Serame explained that the Ministry of Lands and Housing was an adviser and gave the final go ahead to procure the building and therefore should be consulted to assist in clearing the matter.

“Furthermore the threshold was viewed after every 5 years as opposed to annually which made the ministry appear to have exceeded the allocated budget,” said Serame.

Butale cast aspersions saying he suspects the Ministry had the property in question as their only desired choice which made them waive the tendering process. 

“There should have been allowance for submissions of expression of interest and the following documents should be availed; bidding document, tender evaluation report, position of minister, winning bidder and everything,” he said.

Chairperson of PAC Abram Kesupile expressed dissatisfaction with the submission by the PS and revealed that they are not prepared to wait another 12 months for clarification. 

“Instead resubmit to answer why things were done how they were. We demand to know how the deal started and the name of the authorising officer. Please also furnish us with the details of the procedure to tender in instances where there is only one entity that expresses interest to tender,” Kesupile stated.

Serame also revealed that from the 53rd PAC report, 150 of the 184 cases (82 percent) had been resolved leaving 34 cases (18 percent) unresolved. He also said the bulk of the remaining cases relate to revenue arrears for company registration fees. 

“We are working with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to abandon the monies involved as most of the companies are not operating and do not have assets nor bank accounts,” said Serame. 

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